By SOMLUCK SRIMALEE
That was in 2011 and now the enterprise is generating an average income of Bt70,000 a month as well as providing jobs for four farmer families who also supply produce for Piyanuch’s juicing plant.
“I started out to become a farmer that year when my father transferred a plot of 3 rai in Nakhon Pathom province to me,” Piyanuch, now 50, said in an interview with The Nation.
“Then I decided to grow karanda fruit, which is a type of Thai herbal fruit. I started with one tree as originally I had wanted my father to eat the fruit in order to improve his health.
“But that inspired me to grow karanda fruit as a business. I then planted up to 300 trees on the land to sell the fruit in the market, with an investment cost of Bt10,000 from my family savings. I gained an average selling price of Bt180 per kilogram.”
Piyanuch had graduated with a secretarial diploma Chetupon Commercial College but she never ended up working an office after she got married. However, at 44, she took the plunge with the karanda farming venture.
“It was difficult for me to start out in business but my husband helped me and I also made my own efforts to learn how to do it and to find out what customers want,” she said.
“The six years in business have had their difficulties but I appreciated the challenge to make the best possible products for my customers, especially that people nowadays are increasingly concerned about their health and are seeking out beneficial herbs to consume.”
In 2013, the supply of karanda fruit exceeded the market demand, resulting in the average selling price for the fruit dropping to Bt15 per kilogram.
Piyanuch struck on the idea of processing the fruit to make karanda fruit juice and began selling bottles of it for Bt10 each. One kilogram of the fruit can yield 40 bottles of the juice. This meant her average selling price for the fruit translated into Bt400 per kilogram.
The initial success from the juicing operation prompted her to invest Bt1.5 million on the establishment of a production plant at her home in Nakhon Pathom province.
The facilities enabled Piyanuch to extend the fruit juice expiry date to an average of three months thanks to a pasteurisation process. Previously, the juice needed to be dunk within 10 days.
She embarked on the investment last year and the manufacturing plant has since received certification from the Food and Drug Administration of the Public Health Ministry.
The plant began operations in May with a production capacity of 60,000 bottles a month.
Piyanuch’s products are now distributed in souvenir shops nationwide - including in Phuket, Lumpang, Chiang Mai and Nakorn Sawan - under the Suan Tip brand.
Piyanuch said that she plans to have products stocked in the big retailers, such as Tops Supermarket, and is studying this move. A deal may be finalised in 2018, she added.
Meanwhile, she is researching the development of new types of products made from the karanda fruit, such as jams and syrups. Piyanuch is looking to launch these products, also under the Suan Tip brand, next year.
“We expect our sales growth to double now that people are more conscious about what is better for their health to consume,” she said. “And karanda fruit juice is one such choice for health-conscious people. This gives us confidence to meet our goal of doubling sales and generating a return on growth in the double digits each year.”