Koh-Kae: The iconic Thai peanut brand that has been delighting people for decades
For nearly half a century, Koh-Kae has remained a popular brand of flavoured peanuts in Thailand and has been winning hearts overseas among those who love Thai food.
The story behind Koh-Kae peanuts is a testament to culinary innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and Thailand’s cultural significance.
Culinary traditions inspire innovation
Thai food is known for its bold flavours, blending sweet, salty, spicy and savoury. These flavours have extended to snacks, and Koh-Kae has become a big player in this realm.
The snack debuted in 1976 with peanuts covered in a crunchy coconut milk-flavoured casing.
As demand for convenient and flavourful snacks grew, Koh-Kae recognised the opportunity and began experimenting with other flavourings to come up with something unique.
Over time, Koh-Kae’s offerings expanded to more than 50 flavours catering to different tastes.
It later expanded its repertoire to include other nuts like cashews, almonds and pistachios and became one of the first snacks in Thailand to be sold in a metal can.
Birth of Koh-Kae
Koh-Kae is produced by Mae Ruay Factory Co Ltd, which was founded in 1964 by the Ruayjarernsap family.
The company’s name is a fusion of the words “Mae” or mother in Thai and the first part of the family name, resulting in “Mae Ruay”.
This small factory was initially producing items like milk toffee, fried beans and shrimp chips. But it wasn’t until the company’s founder came upon coated peanuts on a trip overseas that Koh-Kae was created. Upon returning home, he decided to produce similar peanuts in Thai flavours and settled on coconut milk.
Soon the product caught on in the market and people began developing a taste for the snack.
The iconic Koh-Kae logo, featuring a character with spiky hair, black glasses and a judo outfit, was designed by Chukiat Ruayjarernsap, the founder of Mae Ruay Factory.
He was inspired by a Japanese postcard he had in his collection and he decided to name the character “Koh-Kae” or “old teenager”.
This quirky character and its two-syllable name became even more iconic when featured in television advertisements, embodying a rock-and-roll attitude. The slogan was “nutty in every grain”.
The company now has 1,400 employees and produces some 3,000 kilograms of the snack per hour.
Koh-Kae, along with other brands under the company’s umbrella, has received halal certification for all flavours, ensuring that its products adhere to strict quality and religious standards.
The company sources its peanuts both locally and internationally. It has 700 rai (about 110 hectares) devoted to the nut in Sakon Nakhon and also imports from China, India, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Nowadays, bags of Koh-Kae peanuts are not just snapped up at every 7-Eleven in Thailand, but have also become a great hit overseas. Exported to over 50 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and China, Koh-Kae features high in Asian grocery stores.
Today, Mae Ruay Factory’s biggest seller is Koh-Kae, especially the original coconut milk flavour.
Data from 2022 shows that Koh-Kae holds more than 50% of the market share, and the company hopes it will start bringing in a revenue of 10 billion baht per annum in the next five to 10 years. Its revenue at present stands at 2.5 billion.
The company also wants to boost its international revenue to 50% from 20% currently.
Tourists from various countries, especially China, enjoy Koh-Kae and many take the snack back home as souvenirs and gifts. The colourful packaging makes it an interesting item to share with friends and family.
Besides, Koh-Kae snacks can be found almost everywhere in Thailand, ranging from convenience stores and supermarkets to mom-and-pop shops.
This accessibility makes it convenient for people to grab a snack on the go or to stock up for long journeys.
Koh-Kae snacks are also budget-friendly and appealing to cost-conscious travellers seeking an authentic taste of Thailand.
Beyond serving as a snack, Koh-Kae peanuts are versatile enough to be added to other dishes.
For instance, they can be added to salads as a crunchy topping or used in Thai-inspired dishes.
For tourists who want to immerse themselves in Thai culture, sampling local snacks like Koh-Kae is an integral part of their experience. It allows them to savour distinct flavours that are unique to Thailand.
Koh-Kae’s extensive range of flavours ensures that there is something to delight every palate. Whether one prefers sweet and savoury combinations or craves spicy, tangy notes, Koh-Kae caters to all, making it a snack that suits everybody.