Will you still talk to Breadtalk? – 7 Aug 2015

Posted on August 6th, 2015 in Food for thought


1) On 3rd August, after a photo of a Breadtalk employee pouring Yeo’s packet soya bean milk into Breadtalk bottles labelled “freshly-prepared” was posted, social media caught fire. Waves of online criticism swarmed Breadtalk over its “unethical” practice.

2) Almost immediately, Breadtalk pulled the drink from its menu and said it will sell the drink again but this time out of Yeo’s labelled drink dispensers “to prevent misunderstanding”.

3) Like jilted lovers, some Singaporeans swore never to talk to Breadtalk again. Why are people so upset over Breadtalk?

4) Did Singaporeans really misunderstand that the soya bean drink repackaged in very down to earth looking bottles was indeed the real McCoy? Apparently many did. Now they feel betrayed and silly, upon learning that they could have bought 1 litre of the same for $1.50 rather than 350ml of it for $1.80.

5) Yeo’s must be secretly cheering that its pasteurized packet drink could so easily pass for a freshly prepared version. Hopefully its R&D team gets a well deserved SG50 bonus.

6) Such practices are not new to me. When I was in banking, I was exposed to companies that supplied cookies and cakes to F&B chains such as Starbucks,. Do people who pay high prices for those cookies and cakes really think Starbucks makes them? Perhaps some do. And because Starbuck beverages are premium priced, the prices for the cookies and cakes seems ‘normal’. Will people flame Starbucks if they one day see a Starbuck employee transferring cakes from an aluminum carton bearing another F&B brand onto the display shelves at a markup?

7) Are Singaporeans upset then, with the markup of the soya bean drink by Breadtalk?

8) Maybe. Maybe not. Singaporeans know that beverages sold at fast food chains like McDonald’s are marked up tremendously. They may not know the exact markup but they know they can get it cheaper at a supermarket anytime. Well here’s the spoiler. A soft drink at your regular fast food chain is typically marked up 800% and more. Astounding but true.  Similarly, we know we are overpaying at any coffeeshop for a can of soft drink. You’ll be charged about $1.30 for a can of soft drink with a complimentary ice filled cup. The mark up is 300% and above.

9) So why aren’t Singaporeans fuming and kicking up a fuss like they did over Breadtalk’s soya bean milk boo boo? After all, Breadtalk is not making a 800% profit on the soya bean drink.

10) Because nobody likes to be deceived, whether intentionally or unintentionally. You suggest to me your soya bean is freshly prepared when it could have been squatting in Yeo’s warehouse for weeks or months? I pay a premium thinking it’s fresh when it’s not? It is the same feeling of betrayal one gets when one pay top dollars for an expensive apartment only to be greeted by an extraordinary long list of defects. Or to pay crazy money for a seminar/course only to walk away feeling severely shortchanged.

11) Why couldn’t people differentiate freshly prepared soya bean drink from a pasteurized version? Even if they could and had lingering suspicion that it tasted like a packet pretender, why did some continue to buy? Perhaps, because they believed in the brand. Perhaps, they believed that if the sticker says freshly prepared, it must be so.

12) This whole saga will soon blow over. Like how some lovers get together as many times as they break up, customers who swear never to patronize Breadtalk again, may once more, queue up at its cashiers.

13) Nevertheless, don’t bet on F&B chains volunteering to disclose how many of their products you think is authentically made by them is not. They’ll probably be telling their operation staff to be more careful.

14) As for me, I’m sticking to water and traditional drinks from Hock Hua. Are herbal drinks from Hock Hua freshly brewed? I cannot be 100% sure even though they taste very authentic to me as I’ve been drinking such home brewed drinks from young thanks to my grandmother and mother. But one thing’s for sure. I can’t find anything that taste like Hock Hua’s in the supermarkets. If a good pretender can be found in supermarkets, it must have “preservatives” for a longer shelf life.  So if I can’t find such a pretender in the supermarkets, it’s highly likely that what Hock Hua sells is not from a shelf product and so it must be freshly brewed! I stand to be corrected, so if anyone can point out evidence that what Hock Hua sells is actually from shelf products, please let me know. My grandma would surely appear in my dream to chide, “Ah Kheong, how come you cannot differentiate after drinking for so many years. All my efforts wasted!!!”

15) As a parting note, sugary drinks, especially soda based ones are no friends of us. Weight gain, fatty liver, diabetes, insulin resistance. The scary list runs on. Life is short enough. Let’s not hasten it. If you can’t wean yourself off it, do junior a favour and don’t start him/her on it.

16) Happy long weekends, all! Get yourself a Hockhua herbal drink, especially if you’re gonna karaoke SG50 songs all day long. And no, I don’t get paid for saying this. I just want you to be healthy and happy so you can celebrate many, many more National Days!

My Best Always,

Douglas Chow

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