We are currently living amid a new social movement, where the younger generation, movers and shakers and consumers alike are demanding transparency, high quality and more organic options across all products they buy. Amid the pandemic, we saw a rise in demand for clean and ethical beauty, the sharp rise of plant based meat, milk and more.
So, it’s no surprise that Bangkok also recently welcomed a new addition to the health and eco-conscious scene. Heyday, a brand of 100% organic plant-based protein powder, is offering a new alternative to your regular gym bro’s whey protein. By redefining the protein shake, they are setting out to make health and fitness less daunting and more approachable for all.
We sat down with co-founder Karn Chatikavanij to talk about all things protein, the inspiration for starting the business, and misconceptions about what it means to be fit and healthy.
Heyday’s core product is a 100% plant-based protein powder, nicknamed ‘The Fit One’. It’s an organic blend of pea and rice proteins, with added probiotics, fibre, and digestive enzymes. The product has no added sugar or emulsifiers, and their original vanilla ice cream flavor uses stevia extract for sweetness, with a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
Heyday’s protein powder is currently available to buy via Instagram, Facebook, Lineshop, or on their website. Customers can either buy single sachets to try or go for a box of “The Fit One” for THB1,500. Separately, there’s also instagram worthy merchandise, such as the different colored shaker bottles designed to mix perfectly smooth shakes-on the go.
“Branding and crafting the right message was very important to us,” says Karn. “Protein powder is historically associated with intense bodybuilding, intimidating packaging, and generally grunting guys at the gym. One of the biggest challenges for us is that protein powders have had something of an image problem in the past. Too many Arnie associations and ingredients you can’t even pronounce.”
To tackle this problem, Heyday offers their protein powder with fresh and fun branding, as well as packaging. They’ve replaced the complicated ingredients lists of whey protein shakes with their clean, comprehensible, plant-derived blend.
The finished product? An eye catching design with the science and flavor to back up the core mission. The texture itself is smooth, goes down well, and literally tastes like a scoop of Vanilla ice cream.
“Our message is all about health being enjoyable, so we worked hard to avoid the grainy-ness often found in plant proteins,” she says. “The feedback so far shows that customers have noticed the smoother finish.”
The Heyday Story
So, how did the product come about? As with a lot of today’s B2C brands and startups, the founder identified a personal challenge and created a solution to solve it.
“I have always been an active person who plays sports and enjoys fitness,” says Karn. “But then I turned vegetarian a few years ago, and noticed that it was difficult to maintain my energy levels, protein intake, and muscle mass.”
Then, Karn met her co-founder Alex Conradi, who is a fellow fitness fanatic with a big interest in nutrition.
“He had recently switched from whey to plant-based protein because it worked better for his body and was easier to digest. He introduced it to me and I found that it really helped with energy levels, and made it so much easier to hit my daily protein intake.”
The two soon had the idea for Heyday.
“There’s a lack of availability in Thailand,” says Karn. “I could only have access to good quality plant-based protein when I traveled abroad, so I wanted to fill that gap here in Thailand.
First, came the grueling R&D process.
“We essentially started the process by taking the best aspects from the plant-based protein brands we liked in the UK,” says Karn. “And then putting it all together into one perfect product to launch in Thailand.”
If we were to unpack the individual ingredients within Heyday’s protein powder, there’s a lot of things you wouldn’t usually find in a Thailand-based protein brand. This includes the probiotics and digestive enzymes found in Heyday’s protein – both of which help with overall digestive health and nutrient-absorption. Why add these?
“There needs to be a more holistic approach to these supplements. It’s not enough to just feed someone something; you have to make sure they will digest and absorb it well,” says Karn. “You are not what you eat – you are what you digest.”
Certain ingredients are currently imported from abroad, which proved to be challenging during the trial process.
“High quality organic protein is difficult to source, so it took several months to finalize. The other big challenge was the probiotics. Typically, Thai people are more familiar with probiotics in ready-made drinks like Yakult. We’re the first to add probiotics to protein powder, so a lot of research had to be done to make it work.” says Karn.
“The ingredients in plant-based protein tend to be better quality and more organically produced compared to in whey proteins. Hence the often higher price point. ” says Karn.
In the near future though, Heyday plans to source as many local ingredients as possible, due to easier logistics and also from a sustainability point of view. However, materials that can only be sourced overseas will continue to be, to provide each sachet with the most high quality mix.
Capturing the Self Care trend
Whilst the pandemic made people more aware of maintaining strong physical health and keeping fit, mental and even environmental health awareness has also risen to become a significant part of maintaining a holistically healthy life.
“The pandemic has shifted our focus and time on keeping physically healthy, mentally well and also being more mindful about the planet, “ says Karn. “These are all the key missions that Heyday represents.
Heyday’s packaging is environmentally conscious, with eco-friendly packaging and as little plastic as possible. Even the single sachets (made from 100% recycled paper), was a deliberate design by the founders.
“People often associate protein powder with those big, intimidating tubs of whey,” says Karn. “We wanted ours to be a more sociable experience, and more friendly and inclusive. Separate sachets means you can easily pack it and go, or share out with friends and family.”
Eating and being healthy used to be associated with giving up parts of your social life. Declining dinner invitations to diet, making time for the gym alone and more. For Heyday’s co-founders, it shouldn’t be this way. Their core mission is to prove that health is fun, easy, and should never mean isolation.
“We initially set out to reach people within our own social circles,” says Karn. “You know, millennials who enjoy fitness, care about good health, and are trying to be a bit more mindful of the planet.”
Soon after launching though, Karn noticed that Heyday’s vanilla ice cream protein sachets have found a wider audience than initially expected, from older people who not only enjoy the smooth texture, but have also benefited from fat loss and preventing muscle decline.
Heyday is setting out to break the mold of traditional stereotypes associated with protein powders. The thing is, protein shakes don’t just have to be for fitness fanatics or super athletes. It can make for an easy and nutritional breakfast, or an energy-boosting mid-afternoon snack. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of protein.
“Heyday’s core mission is to make protein shakes more approachable, and health more fun. We want to build a community of modern active people, where we can swap tips, offer education and information, and generally encourage people to have fun with health,” says Karn.
The fresh young voice and Heyday’s colorfully curated Instagram account also plays a large part in re-defining plant based protein. Followers can scroll for curated recipes with the protein powder, read up on digestible content, and find fitness tips and motivation. Soon, we may also participate in Heyday’s offline events, from workout sessions to healthy baking workshops.
The power of community is key to brand building, which is why Heyday’s launch party at lifestyle complex The Commons, Thonglor included group yoga classes and a chance to try the product in a relaxed, community led setting.
Building the future
First came plant-based meat, then milk, and now protein powder. However, in a city like Bangkok where these alternative, higher priced options aren’t yet readily available for everyone, we ask Heyday’s founders whether they think these products will remain niche.
“Of course, when new trends and innovations come along, it’s often those with disposable income who can easily swap and try first,” says Karn. “Our goal though, is to start with our community, and keep spreading the brand.”
As more people adapt to alternative options, more brands will pop up and soon, be more widely available across all consumer segments. We are already seeing this with almond and oat milk. Prior to today, alternative milk options revolved around expensive, imported brands from the US. Now, we are seeing local brands selling high quality bottles and cartons on Instagram and ecommerce marketplaces.
Karn is also investing in curating the right messages on social media to carve out a wider community for Heyday, and to present health and fitness in a more fun and relaxed light.
“What I’ve found is that a lot of health supplement brands on social media can be quite superficial and commercial with their messages. Too often it’s about promoting a particular body shape or oversimplifying a benefit. ‘Lose 5kg in one week’ might come with malnutrition as a result, or ‘detox’ can actually just mean crazy laxative effects! With Heyday, we want to give informative, factual messages whilst keeping the tone light and friendly.
We don’t force any kind of aesthetic ideal – it’s all about feeling great within. Health looks different from person to person, and we want to create a supportive environment for that. ”
The messaging also reflects Karn’s approach to staying sane amid a pandemic, “Stay relaxed, have fun, and don’t get overly stressed about health. You cannot eat a salad and be perfect every day, all the time. True health always means happiness.”
As for Heyday, the brand is currently working on some new flavors to be released soon this year. In the meantime, check out its original vanilla ice cream flavor; “The Fit One” available on Instagram, Line Shop, and their website