For centuries, soy and mung beans have been a staple in Asian cuisine, cherished for their numerous health benefits and versatility in various dishes and drinks.

In Cambodia, soy and mung bean milk are popular beverages, and many people earn a living by making and selling these nourishing drinks.

Now, a group of three young Cambodian girls, all food and chemical engineering students at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), have come together to create a unique beverage called “Oun Sondek”. They sell their creation in commercial fridges and through online platforms.

Ung Rong Phal Tevy, co-founder and representative of this small business, explained their journey began with a school assignment to propose a food processing idea. They chose to explore bean processing, received approval and support from their teachers, and secured financial backing from the World Bank, their school, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

According to Tevy, “Oun Sondek” was born through the collaboration of herself and her friends, Voeut Sokty and Aun Vathana, all studying food chemistry. The name “Oun Sondek” symbolises the three co-founders and their dedication to beans and all their varieties, representing women involved in the processing of these legumes.

While juggling their studies and completing their theses, Tevy found a solution for sales by utilising fridges that facilitate QR scanning technology for purchases. Customers can simply scan the code, make the payment, and receive their soy or mung bean milk bottle. Additionally, they expanded their reach through online sales via Facebook.

The installation of the fridges was a joint effort between their team and the school’s electric team, as the appliances were built in-house. Future plans involve expanding their presence by installing more fridges in schools and hospitals.

“Even after graduation, we intend to continue running this small business. We are currently working on enhancing our products. One team member is researching methods to prolong its shelf life without the use of chemical preservatives by employing alternative food chemistry techniques,” said Tevy.

As a food science student, she highlighted the distinctive characteristics of their bean-derived milk products.

“While the appearance may not differ significantly from others, it stands out due to our expertise in food chemistry. Our unique processing techniques result in superior quality and the absence of chemical additives in any of the ingredients,” she said.

The “Oun Sondek” beverage is priced at 3,000 riel per 330ml bottle. On average, they sell between 400 to 2,000 bottles monthly, with demand varying based on events and seasons. For instance, during school programmes, they can sell thousands of bottles in just a few days. However, sales decrease during quieter periods, like the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

“Due to the high demand, our team of three cannot manage all orders while also focusing on our studies and completing our theses. Therefore, we have enlisted the help of 13 third- and fourth-year students, bringing our production team to a total of 16 individuals,” she explained.