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Sealing up a niche business

Kem Samphors, managing director at Cambodian Packaging Enterprise, speaks to the Post from her office in Phnom Penh
Kem Samphors, managing director at Cambodian Packaging Enterprise, speaks to the Post from her office in Phnom Penh. HONG MENEA

Sealing up a niche business

Packaging is a little-known cottage industry that producers are just starting to pay more attention to. The Post’s Rann Reuy sat down with Kem Samphors, the owner and managing director of Cambodian Packaging Enterprise, to talk about her plans to wrap and box the products that end up in stores and supermarkets.

First things first, what products do you work with?
We have packaged some sugars – brown sugar which was imported from an outside market, and palm sugar which was produced in Cambodia. Our packages are mostly biodegradable and can be discarded with no impact on the environment.

How did you get into such a niche industry?
In 2002 and 2003, I faced difficulty finding such products when I was an employee of a five-star hotel in Phnom Penh. At that time, I saw almost all packages were made of plastic bags. I also learned that sugar wasn’t being used correctly. Owners poured sugar into glasses, and diners would, for example, use the same spoon to dish out sugar for coffee that they used to eat their noodle soup with. The noodles then became sweet.

When did you start this enterprise?
In 2005, I planned on starting my own business. At first, I began with packaging white sugar. Now, we have around 50 different products, some of which we package locally, and others we import for packaging and then distribution.

What kinds of imports?
We get raw material from other countries. Honestly speaking, Cambodia is not rich with raw materials except for palm sugar, salt and milled rice. So I often travel abroad to look for the needed raw materials.

When you began your business, what was it like at the outset?
At that time, I was still employed, and I started with my brother. I worked at night, and during the days, we worked for others. At that time, we packaged products and we tried to do marketing by ourselves to introduce our products to other business owners. In 2010, I stopped working for others and I concentrated on my own business, receiving whole orders from our partners, including restaurants and supermarkets.

Why is packaging important?
It’s paramount because it’s the face of a product, and each product needs protection to avoid damage and stay clean for consumption. It’s the first thing we see in a product. If it looks attractive, yes, it sells. By contrast, if there is good quality and taste, but the packaging is poor, it is difficult to sell.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

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