Pearlie White is proud to be Singapore’s only home-grown oral care brand and well-trusted by parents around Singapore since 2001. With over 50 innovative oral care products in the range, Pearlie White caters for a wide range of oral care needs, including kids’ oral care, denture care, gum care, tooth sensitivity and whitening. This time, we are honoured to have the opportunity to interview its Managing Director and Founder Andy Ong.
Parents World (PW): When did you start your business? What was your vision and mission at the start of your company?
Andy Ong: The first dentist in Singapore (Dr. Cheong Chun Tin) was my great great grandfather and our business has always been involved in either dentistry or trade in dental supplies. So we know what products consumers and dental professionals want, and we also knew how to make better products than the competition. So in 2001, we took the plunge and decided to create something uniquely Singapore/Singaporean that is Pearlie White (for reference Pearlie White is not just a Singapore headquartered brand with manufacturing facilities in Singapore; it is also still 100% Singaporean owned). And it’s all about Singapore for us. Our belief is that a country becomes greater, when people across the world interact with it every day. So our mission is to get consumers across the world to start and end their day with one of our Singapore made toothpastes or mouth rinses.
By the way, you can read a bit about the history on https://www.nhb.gov.sg/-/media/nhb/files/media/releases/new-releases/media-release–uncover-one-of-singapores-oldest-and-longest-roads-through-the-refreshed-bukit-timah-heritage-trail.pdf since there is literally a road named after Dr. Cheong Chun Tin here. Just search “Pearlie” in the article and all the relevant bits will come up.
Or this one too https://www.roots.gov.sg/places/places-landing/Places/landmarks/Bukit-Timah-Heritage-Trail-WWII-Legacy-Trail/Cheong-Chin-Nam-Road-Chun-Tin-Road-Yuk-Tong-Avenue-Tham-Soong-Avenue
PW: Why did Pearlie White decide to go for halal certification?
Andy Ong: The global halal industry is forecast to reach USD$2.8 trillion by 2025 (Source: DinarStandard State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2022), with Asia-Pacific as a leading market. More than just relating to food, halal is a lifestyle, and its demand is getting greater globally. Nor is it exclusively for Muslim consumers only, halal certified products are gaining popularity in the ethical consumerism market segment too. Pearlie White aims to get people across the world to use one of our made in Singapore toothpaste or mouth rinses every day, hence obtaining halal certification is one of the steps to do so. To be inclusive to everyone.
PW: Why is it so important to maintain the products as manufactured in Singapore?
Andy Ong: Our country is synonymous with adopting some of the most rigorous standards and regulations in manufacturing. And so manufacturing in Singapore for a Singapore brand that is focused on providing quality products = is a given.
I believe as well that anybody who has been to Singapore will understand that it isn’t the cheapest place to visit, but you do get a safe and high-quality experience. And that’s exactly what it’s like buying a Pearlie White toothpaste or mouth rinse. Not the cheapest product you can purchase but certainly one that is not only safe but excels in meeting your oral health needs.
PW: How many employees does your company have?
Andy Ong: We have 90 team members.
PW: Pearlie White has a wide range of oral care products from babies’ All Natural Toothpaste to professional Oral Cleaning Tools. What inspired you to excel in development and production and what are your goals for the next 5 years?
Andy Ong: You know the saying. Singapore must always be number 1 in everything right. We always start off with understanding what consumers expect in an oral health product (and for reference, it’s usually related to having whiter teeth, healthier and plaque-free teeth and gums, or relief of tooth sensitivity). Then we research what other leading products are available in the market and ensure that we develop a product that outperforms that (and we are constantly improving our products to keep ahead of the competition as well)
But we also look at overall consumer trends. Like it’s becoming more prevalent that consumers want more natural ingredients in their personal care products. So you will see a lot of our products with a higher proportion of natural ingredients than the competition (we even have 100% natural formulations like our all natural adult/kids toothpastes).
Our goal for the next 5 years is the same as that for the last 5 years. And that is to produce oral care products that excel at meeting a consumers’ oral health needs at various stages of their life. We believe by doing so, we will get to the point where more consumers use our products than that of other brands.
PW: As the Singapore market is small, do you face any difficulties as to compete in the market?
Andy Ong: The biggest challenge for any brand that has their start in Singapore, is that you are competing with multinational brands many thousand times our size. But that’s the same for any Singapore brand competing in any other country as well. As an example a brand from China or India with 1% market share in their home country, is already equivalent to a brand with an impossible 250% market share in Singapore.
These multinational brands have significantly more resources available especially in terms of gaining visibility for their products via marketing. So we have to really focus on making sure we develop products that consumers love and will recommend to their friends.
PW: How do you advertise your products?
Andy Ong: We advertise our products everywhere. From Offline, out of home (MRT stations, trains, buses), retail (banners, standees, hangsells) to all online platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Google, Youtube, Reddit etc)
But there’s nothing more effective than our customers “advertising” our products for us to their family and friends. So we not only focus on developing great products but we also focus on listening and responding to our customers feedback. We want our customers to feel like they are part of our team on this journey to making a great Singapore brand.
PW: Currently, Pearlie White’s products have been sold in many countries all over the world. How did you achieve these and what inspires you?
Andy Ong: By understanding that each country is different and then approaching each one differently. When I speak with a distributor or business partner in a different part of the world, the first question I ask them is what they feel they need to make Pearlie White succeed in their country. And then we provide as much support as possible to provide that. It’s very much the same as how our country conducts itself globally as well; we do not impose what we feel might work for another country, but rather we listen and we adapt.
I personally get inspired whenever our country scores a win globally in anything and people start talking about it. At the end of the day, all that counts in business or personal life, is the number of people you have impacted positively. And hopefully, positive enough to be remembered and spoken about even when we are gone.
PW: How would you describe your leadership style?
Andy Ong: Always authentic. Always decisive. My team members expect nothing less from me and I expect the same from them as well.
PW: One key advice for entrepreneurs.
Andy Ong: Especially for those starting out today where your customer is probably already using a product that caters to their needs you are trying to meet. Make sure whatever product/service you are offering is unique in the country you are marketing it in and where there is no single identifiable large dominant competitor. An easy exercise to do is to choose a product/service that you want to market, and ask 10 friends/family to name a brand that they know of that provides such a product/service. If 10 of them come up with the same one or two brands = don’t start the business. If 10 of them come up with 10 different brands or can’t even name a brand = start the business as there is no one identifiable large dominant competitor to go against; chances of success will be higher.