The story of Yum Asia and Greedy Panda

Get ready for a history lesson

It’s not easy to work out where things began. I guess it started when both of us (Neil and Donna) were growing up in the UK and enjoyed Asian food takeaways that our parents used to buy us as a treat.

Zoom forward 15 years and we both started travelling around South East Asia around the year 2000. The world of rice and how diverse and tasty it could really be was a revelation to us. We tried many different ways to try and make simple jasmine rice like we had tasted overseas using basic rice cookers (glass lid bubbling water types) but the end result was almost always a mess. We regularly ended up with water all over the worktop and soggy rice with little flavour. Neil then went back to South East Asia in 2023 for a job interview and discovered Zojirushi and how awesome they were at cooking perfect rice at the touch of a button.

We wanted to share the wonder of these machines with our fellow UK countryfolk so in 2005 we explored the possibility of getting one or two models of Zojirushi models approved for the UK market. We did this and sold them on an auction site (when auction sites were much more popular back then). They sold so well that we decided to cut out the middle man and sell them on a basic website. We wish we still had a copy of that basic website from 2006 to share with you, but Donna lost the copy; let’s just say, it was very basic but did the job of getting the word out there that people didn’t have to struggle anymore with basic glass lid rice cookers that spat starchy water all over their kitchen worktops. Instead they could enjoy the benefits of fuzzy logic rice cookers.

We expanded our range of these more high technology rice cooking machines and in 2008 improved our website and then started selling Zojirushi’s other products. At the same time we were getting huge interest from European customers also wanting to buy these cookers. In 2009 we immediately started shipping to all 28 countries in Europe. By 2011 things were going so well and the internet had developed into a monster of a selling tool. This area of selling was developing so fast it was hard to keep up but we delved deep into ecommerce software and improved our website yet again.

By 2012 we had thousands of happy customers who were now starting to ask us for recipe ideas and other ways to get the most out of their happy purchases. So we added a recipe blog to our website and called it the Yum Asia Foodie Blog. Over the next few years Yum Asia grew to be a successful business founded on selling high end rice cooking technologies and other technologies from Asia that do their job extremely well. Plain and simply put, we wouldn’t sell them if we (and our customers) thought they were poor products.

Zoom forward again to 2014 and we were finally ready to put something into motion that we had wanted to do from day 1. That was to create, manufacture and sell our own designed multifunction rice cooker to the UK and Europe.

Over many months and several years we had been crafting the perfect combination of features, style and reliability into a rice cooker. When we finished development we named it ‘Sakura‘. Launched at the end of 2016 we are happy to say that they were selling like hot cakes and became extremely well reviewed! Over the next 4 years we expanded the Yum Asia rice cooker range with the birth of Panda (our mini rice cooker), Kumo (the first low carb rice cooker for the UK and Europe) and Bamboo (the UK and Europe’s first UMAI IH rice cooker). This foodie blog was redesigned several times and we gave it a new home (here!) and renamed it to ‘Greedy Panda’.

Our plan to continue to be the Number 1 seller of Zojirushi products in the UK and Europe was not only maintained but propelled. Yum Asia rice cookers have gone from strength to strength outselling Zojirushi by over 200 to 1 with Yum Asia rice cookers now in position number 1 in the UK and Europe for rice cookers achieving multiple awards from highly acclaimed review agencies, magazines, newspapers, tech websites and more.

During the time of the covid pandemic (year 2020) due to restrictions in place home cooking becamse increasingly important. People found that it was easier, cheaper (and safer) to cook at home and rice was no exception. Yum Asia was well positioned to fill the hole in the ‘cooking rice at home’ market and we did so by expanding our range of rice cookers and also added rice grains to our sales catalogue which proved to be a popular move. In the later half of 2020 we expanded into the USA by setting up a warehouse in California and launched the sale of Kumo, Panda and Sakura rice cookers which due to their unique technology, appearance, healthier materials and ability to cook rice perfectly became popular very quickly.

Yum Asia Multinational Website in 2024

We added Tsuki (mini rice cooker with solid claypot), Fuji (a second UMAI IH rice cooker) and Bonsai (bento style rice cooker) during this time and stumbled into the problem of Brexit. Our operations had been based in the UK but with the UK separating from Europe we had an issue to overcome which was ‘how do we serve our UK and European customers equally after Brexit?’ The answer was to set up another warehouse for our European customers in the Netherlands. This would enable us to ship UK products to UK customers from our UK warehouse and European products to European customers from our Dutch warehouse. This was done to make sure that customers would never be impacted by slow delivery times, import/custom fees and get the same service across all marketplaces. During Covid we collaborated with Nigel Ng (of Uncle Roger fame) and Evelyn Mok to help bring attention to our products during the pandemic and our popularity grew further thanks to their help and our mutual passion to get people cooking rice correctly.

In recent times we have expanded our rice cooking accessory products to include storage containers, spatulas, rice washing bowls and much more. We also launched the Greedy Panda cookbook with over 150 recipes in it along with tips, tricks and user guides which (in our opinion) is an essential handbook for anyone that loves rice. The Greedy Panda cookbook has sold thousands of copies both on Amazon and our website and we continue to develop our recipes and compliment them with an active You Tube channel and other social media.

Yum Asia are constantly improving, evolving and building on our strong foundation of rice cooker expertise, rice and related technologies. We never expected so many people had wanted to cook rice perfectly like us and it is a great honour for us to help others expand their rice cooking abilities. We look forward to the coming months and years. We have some incredibly exciting new products being developed and perfected ready for you to love so please stay tuned and once again, thank you so much to everyone for their steadfast and  continuing support.

‘Happy Cooking’!

Donna and Neil at Yum Asia