During our early days in Jakarta, I recall feeling overcome by an instinctive need to establish control of our lives. To achieve this I quickly prioritised what was most important and secured a reputable medical clinic as well as a dentist, hairdresser and a handful of good coffee shops (with the expert guidance of my newly found friend and future blogging parter, Liz). Next I lined up my Bahasa teacher, Ibu Hani (who still to this day, teaches me Bahasa Indonesia). From our hotel accommodation, my life started taking shape.
And then school began and my attention turned to the three empty lunchboxes on the kitchen bench. I’ve always been pretty keen to feed my children well whilst appreciating the importance of adding a little ‘treat’ to their lunchboxes. So off to the supermarket I went in search of this illusive something (which hopefully would be vaguely healthy also). After scouring the shelves, I stumbled across some sesame bars – not ideal but a start at least. Until we moved to our house in South Jakarta where I had access to a proper kitchen, these- along with the odd jajanan pasar became regular fixtures in the kids’ lunchboxes…
And this leads me to today’s story (finally!)
In May 2017 something profound happened in Jakarta. On the shelves of many supermarkets, a saving grace arrived in the form of MIA CHIA. No longer did we have to rack our brains for tasty and nutritious lunchbox treats – a fantastic solution had arrived, one that has pioneered the healthy snacking industry in Indonesia – and it’s all thanks to this lady, Giulia Sartori.
This week we would like to introduce you to Giulia and share her story along with the story of MIA CHIA.
*Kenalkan Giulia Sartori – Founder MIA CHIA Snacks
Hi Giulia, can you please tell us a bit about yourself
I am originally from Tuscany Italy, but when I was 4 years of age, my family left Italy and we moved to Africa to begin life as expatriates. During my childhood I lived in Mali, Ethiopia and Kenya.
What did you want to be as a child?
Nobody ever asked me that question (as far as I can remember) so I never thought of it! Later on I never had a single profession in mind… I always thought I would try something and do it until I got bored of it or didn’t like it.
How long have you lived in Indonesia?
We have been in Jakarta for 7 and a half years. Like many others, we moved here for 1-2 years. We originally came for my work as an Environmental Consultant.
And what about your life before Indonesia?
Prior to moving to Jakarta, we lived in Beijing for 5 years and then before that, in London for a year. My husband and I met whilst we were studying for our Masters at Oxford University. I was completing a Masters Degree in Environmental Management.
And what about your own family?
I have two kids – Mia who is now 4 and my son Cassiel who is about to turn 2.
What inspired you to start up a business, namely MIA CHIA?
My husband had really bad migraines for 25 years. They were so bad that he would have to stay in a dark room for days and barely go out for food. The severity was so extreme that he had surgeries to attempt to remedy this. He was finally diagnosed as being gluten intolerant. Armed with this diagnosis, within days his migraines disappeared. We returned to Jakarta and started to modify his diet a bit. This sparked my curiosity about diet and wellbeing so I enrolled in a 1 year online nutrition course. One of the big things that I wasn’t aware of before was the amount of refined sugars in foods.
All this coincided with Mia starting pre-kindie. Typically kids would go off to school with shop-bought biscuits and cakes. Instead Mia would be sent with fruit and veggies in her lunchbox but as she didn’t have what she considered a treat, she would swap. I realised I needed to make something that was healthy and delicious and considered a treat. During this time, I was feeling great dissatisfaction with my job so I threw caution to the wind and decided to give my new business idea a go. I agreed to give it one year to see if I could make it happen. It worked! The nicest thing is that people come to me and say I eat your products, they’re tasty and nutritious.
Can you tell us about the philosophy of MIA CHIA
It’s all about being as natural and local as possible. Usually we use between 2 – 5 ingredients. It’s all nuts, fruits and seeds. Also, our recipes do not contain added sugar, are free from preservatives, are peanut free, soy free, dairy free and gluten free. Approximately half of our ingredients are locally sourced, the remainer is imported. For example, the cacao is from small scale farmers, our honey is from Flores (raw and unfiltered), and the cashew nuts are sustainably grown in Indonesia. Of course the spices we use including ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg are from Indonesia. Every single product must be tip top.
Where are MIA CHIA products made?
Right here in Jakarta – we have our own workshop where we make and package all our goods.
Who is your customer?
80% of our customers are women, of which 50% are from the expat community and 50% are local.
What is your best selling product?
Definitely the Almond & Cranberry, although different groups of people like different flavour combinations, for example our Indonesian customers prefer the Almond & Cranberry, whereas expats are more interested in Ginger.
What is your favourite MIA CHIA product?
Cashew Ginger Bites. Interestingly enough I created this product with our Indonesian customers in mind, thinking that they would love the ginger flavour. Surprisingly they did not go crazy over it although people from overseas are loving it.
Have you noticed any trends in the Indonesian food marketplace?
There is currently a big trend on buying and eating granola. A general trend is that people want imported products.
Where can our readers learn more about MIA CHIA and follow the MIA CHIA journey?
Where can our readers buy MIA CHIA products?
Supermarkets including: Foodhall, Ranch Market, Farmers Market, Kemchicks and Grand Lucky
Shops including: Rejuve
Online including: Tokopedia, Lemonilo
and directly from Mia Chia.
A Bit More about “Giulia’s Jakarta”
Coffee or tea and where do you like to drink your preferred beverage?
Both, although I start the day with a black coffee made using a traditional coffee maker.
When I head out for coffee, it needs to be close to home because of Jakarta’s unpredictable traffic. Life is busy so we try to live very local. Two favourite places for drink and food include KLTR in Pavilion. Up in Smoke.
What about your favourite family restaurants in Jakarta?
We really enjoy Japanese hotpot-style eating, Shabu Shabu.
Do you have any favourite Indonesian dishes?
Definitely Gado Gado. The first time I tried it I was living in London (long before Indonesia) and loved it from the first bite.
What to do and where to go in Jakarta with the kids?
This can be difficult. Mostly it’s a lot of indoors and structured play. To get our outdoor fix, sometimes we head to Bogor for the botanical gardens, or to Car-Free Sunday in Jakarta’s centre. Here Mia cycles and I put my son in a backpack. It’s always very entertaining.
We also like the Shangri-La on weekends where we hang out around the pool, and order a sandwich. The kids love it and it feels like you’re away without having to actually be away. Otherwise we like to visit friends who also have children, or enjoy time at home to relax and unwind.
Where to in Indonesia for a family holiday?
Lombok. It’s quiet, nice and easy to get to. Also the hotels are nice. We hire a scooter and explore the island with the kids.
How do you relax and unwind?
I don’t because there’s not a lot of time. However, sometimes I book a massage or organise a weekend escape. I also enjoy catching up with my friends and an evening with friends for drinks.
Can you describe Your Jakarta in 3 words
Welcoming, Messy, Family (because we arrived as two and are now 4 😉 ).
We hope you enjoyed today’s A Journey Bespoke Blog Post. Feel free to send us a comment as we always love hearing from you! 🙂
If you’re new to Jakarta or would like to read some more posts similar to Giulia’s “MIA CHIA” story, we recommend you check out the following:
How to Thrive in Jakarta – a newly arrived Expat’s Guide
Meet Helianti Hilman of artisanal food company Javara Indigenous Indonesia
How to make delicious Rice Paper Rolls
How to make your own Bircher Muesli
Words: Jo Stevens Photography: MIA CHIA