Recreating the boba-shop experience at home: Bobabam CEO Apu Mody talks brand’s growth strategy

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Getty Images - 	tashka2000
Image Credit: Getty Images - tashka2000

Related tags Beverages Bubble tea

With more than 30 years of experience in the CPG world with companies like Del Monte, Mars, and Lenny & Larry’s, Apu Mody joined boba beverage startup Bobabam as the CEO earlier this year to grow the brand’s retail presence and capitalize on the demand for bubble tea beverages in his first year in the role.

[We have] to date already 7,000 or 8,000, Bobabam boba brand ambassadors on board, and that number is growing by leaps and bounds every single day. And so, making sure that we not only grow retail distribution, but we actually have each of our retailers succeed is really, really critical for this first year.”

Recreating the boba-shop experience at home

Founded in 2020, Bobabam has a line of DIY​ bubble tea (boba) kits that recreates an “authentic boba-shop-level experience,​” Mody said. Mody first learned about the brand from his peer Brian Khoddam, one of Bobabam co-founders, and was so impressed with its initial success that he decided to invest in the brand.  

When [Khoddam] approached me with the idea probably two years ago, I thought it was extremely innovative. My kids love boba. And so, we've been a family that goes to boba shops quite frequently. And so, to finally find a clean-label, easy-to-make Boba product that we can make in our own homes, especially right at the kind of the end of the pandemic, was a huge, huge surprise and treat.​”

A year and a half since investing in the brand, Mody formalized his role within the organization by taking on the role of CEO last May and is preparing to expand its retail presence beyond its current partners of Sprouts Farmers Market, Market Basket, Stop and Shop, Gelson's, and others.

We've got some incredible retail partners already on board and a few more really large ones that are coming on board in the coming months. And getting retail distribution is sort of the one step in growing but really making sure that people know where to find us in the store, which stores to find us in is also equally important.​”

Boba market popping with flavor innovation

At the same time that Mody aims to grow Bobabam's fanbase, the boba tea market is primed with growth, as consumers look for a variety of boba flavors and boba tapioca balls in unique product categories​. New and innovative flavors will also be a crucial tool for expanding Bobabam’s business and is a crucial aspect of recreating that boba-shop experience, Mody noted.

One of the things that I think works at a boba shop, and as we keep trying to recreate that boba-shop experience at-home, is the flavor variety. So, we'll continue to sort of experiment with limited-time flavors or new flavors just so that we can continue to bring sort of excitement to the experience for the consumer but also bring something new to the retailer.​”

And given the widespread appreciation of boba flavors and the inflationary climate, consumers are looking for ways to have the boba-shop experience, but at a fraction of the price, which is also helping Bobabam grow, Mody said.

"When we ask [consumers] what they like, clearly easy to prepare and taste exactly like I expected is the first... But the second or third most important thing for most consumers is 'Wow, I was able to literally make four bobas for roughly the price I would have paid at a Boba shop for one.'​"

Creating diversity in food, beverage CPG with Project Potluck

In addition to taking the helm at Bobabam, Mody and the Bobabam founders are also boosting diversity in food and beverage CPG by increasing their involvement with Project Potluck​, a grassroot nonprofit professional organization designed to support people of color entering the industry.

With a funding contribution, Bobabam has achieved a funding-level donor for Project Potluck, and the leadership team at Bobabam is going to lend their knowledge and expertise of the CPG industry to those just starting out in the industry, Mody said.

All three of our founders are people colors as am I, [so] we saw an opportunity to really contribute in a meaningful way to the effort not just financially but then also with our time,” Mody said. “We're contributing ... money to help the organization overall get more formal programming in place, but then we're also committing times by coaching mentoring other entrepreneurs as well as other professionals in the industry.​”

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