Most lactose-intolerants– individuals who lack the enzyme lactase and aren't able to digest the sugar lactose— are able to remain symptom-free by shunning ice cream, milk chocolate, and cheese. But when you're a food-loving lactose-intolerant who grew up immersed in the restaurant industry like Anne King (second generation of the family that runs Jollibee Foods), you don't just “shun” milk. You go out of your way, in her case Singapore, to seek the best alternative. And once you've found it, in this case, Mr. Bean, you endure years of negotiations just to be able to share it with the rest of the country.
Mr. Bean is Singapore's “leading chain soya bean food & beverage retailer”. The company started in 1995, when long-time best friends Kang Puay Seng and Loh Jwee Poh developed a machine that efficiently produces fresh soy milk. From the humble soy bean milk stall they first put up in People's Park Hawker Centre, they were able to grow the brand to a total of 72 stores, with branches in China, Japan, Korea, and Malaysia. Mr. Bean's first Philippine branch opened last April 2012 in Alabang Town Center. Eastwood, Lucky Chinatown Mall, and McKinley Hill branches followed suit.
“Mr. Bean was the first to offer soy milk outside the hawker stalls. Because of Mr. Bean, one can now have soy anytime of the day at malls and MTR stations. That's the reason why Mr. Bean became that big in Singapore,” Anne related. But how did she assess if the Philippines market is ready for soy? “Taho is a staple in the Philippines. Almost every Filipino, even the non lactose-intolerant, is already familiar with how it tastes. I saw that there's an opportunity to explore the category, and maybe offer more products of the same flavor profile. This is why I brought Mr. Bean here,” she answered.
Mr. Bean's main product is fresh soy milk. “It is the key ingredient of all our products,” Anne emphasized. Mr. Bean cooks a fresh batch of soy daily. “On strong weekends, we cook three times a day,” she continued.
Classic Soy Milk and Watermelon Soy Blend
When at Mr. Bean be sure to sample their remarkably smooth and consistent Classic Soy Milk (hot – P55; cold – P65). “As a lactose-intolerant, I've probably tasted every available soy milk in the market. I'm very particular with the freshness. Mr. Bean's soy impressed me the most,” Anne assured. Unlike local soy milk, which gets stocked for a couple of days, Mr. Bean's milk does not leave a sour aftertaste.
You may also want to get Mr. Bean's Chilled Taho (P45), perfectly sweet even without arnibal and sago. A teaspoon is enough for you to decipher its difference from what's available in the streets. There are no rough lumps and excess liquid to be found in a bowl.
The soy also comes in ice cream (P60) form to the delight diet-conscious individuals. Sans fattening milk, one will now be able to enjoy ice cream without guilt and the sugar crash that comes after. Lactose-intolerants must be wary of this though, as it still may induce symptoms.
Soy Ice Cream
The above mentioned products are all-soy with different levels of sweetness. Therefore, they all practically taste the same: pleasantly mild and neutral, with very thin consistency. But if you're looking for something more flavorful, perhaps a beverage that can nurse your milk-tea withdrawal symptoms, get their Fresh Fruity Soy blends (P85 to P95) that mixes fresh fruits like watermelon, papaya, melon, honeydew, and mango with their light soy milk. The result is a less-heavy juice that doesn't leave you bloated. Icy Soy is also available for those who love shakes. Lychee (P110) is popular in this category because of the refreshing, popping lychee bobbas included in the drink.
Icy Soy, Lychee Flavor
Pair any of the cold drinks with Mr. Bean's fresh-from-the-oven, juicy Japanese-style Pancakes (P60). The pancakes are made with soy flour and soy milk. Kaya (pandan and coconut) and cream cheese flavors are currently the best-sellers.
Aside from being a gift to calcium-starved lactose intolerants and vegetarians, soy also promotes a healthier diet as it lessens your cholesterol and prevents high blood pressure. As for the common misconception that soy spikes up your uric acid levels, Anne had to say “well, our soy does not. We serve non-genetically modified soy. And our soy undergoes a special de-shelling process that rids it of excess purines. Mr. Bean's soy products won't give you gout.” She also thinks that “now is a perfect time to introduce Mr. Bean especially since a lot are becoming more health conscious. A lot of our customers are into dieting and into working out. They get their protein fix from us after they go to the gym.”
You don't have to be a lactose-intolerant, a health-buff, a vegetarian to appreciate Mr. Bean. “We have a lot of clients who aren't really soy drinkers before. They were just curious because of the over-all packaging of the store. They tried a drink and got hooked,” Anne shared. Through its stores' youthful appeal, cute soybean mascot, and quality soy products, Mr. Bean Philippines is hoping to convert casual juice and milk-tea drinkers to healthier soy-milk consumers.