Bee Cheng Hiang



Bee Cheng Hiang (美珍香) is a Singapore-based company that produces and sells a wide variety of food products, most notably its signature bakkwa (meaning “dried meat” in Hokkien; also known as rougan, or 肉干, in Mandarin) – barbequed pork slices.1 It is currently the leading player in the bakkwa market, with the most number of outlets in Singapore among competitors.2

History
The origins of Bee Cheng Hiang can be traced to 1933, when Teo Swee Ee started selling his homemade pork slices in Chinatown on a pushcart.3 The delicacy, which was known as bakkwa, was well received. Demand soared during the Chinese New Year period, as the snack was perceived to be a special treat and gift for relatives and close friends.4


The early success of Teo’s business led to the opening of his first shop in 1945 on Rochor Road.5 However, huge trucks parked outside the shop obstructed potential customers’ view of the shopfront. Teo responded to the problem by paying the trucks’ owners to advertise his bakkwa’s brand name, Bee Cheng Hiang, on the vehicles, thus becoming one of the pioneers of mobile advertising in Singapore.6

Throughout the decades, Teo’s strategy was to promote bakkwa as a unique Chinese New Year delicacy. The delicacy grew increasingly popular over time and enabled the business to lift off, bringing in a sustainable consumer base during the festive periods.7 Business was booming for Bee Cheng Hiang in the 1980s, with its revenue increasing by 20 percent every year.8


The company then embarking on a franchise expansion programme in 1994, and just a year later Bee Cheng Hiang had established outlets in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China, with more than 10 altogether.9

After the Asian financial crisis shook Singapore in 1997 and which hit the company hard, the company started revamping the Bee Cheng Hiang experience by modernising the brand’s image.10 The outlets were overhauled to provide a cheery and welcoming space and atmosphere for customers. The company also invested S$1.2 million in research and development so as to continually innovate and launch new products.11

By the early 2000s, the company had become a multimillion-dollar business and a household name known throughout Asia, with at least 30 outlets in Singapore and overseas.12

Daniel Wong, the grand-nephew of the brand’s founder, is currently Bee Cheng Hiang’s group general manager after joining the company in 1993.13

Company profile
Bee Cheng Hiang prides itself on the uncompromised quality of its products, as well as a strong customer service ethos.14 The company aims to be a market leader not only among bakkwa producers, but also within Asia’s food industry.15


In 2001, then Minister of Trade and Industry George Yeo stated that “the key to Bee Cheng Hiang’s success lies in its strong branding and comprehensive franchise system”.16

Wong motivates staff performance by providing cash incentives for meeting sales targets, and by holding the “Best Outlet” competition among the Bee Cheng Hiang branches in Singapore.17


Logo
Bee Cheng Hiang’s logo was designed by its founder Teo Swee Ee. Teo, who was also an amateur Chinese astrologer, had picked the three Chinese characters – “美”, “珍” and “香” (Mei Zhen Xiang in Mandarin) – each comprising nine strokes, because the number nine is pronounced the same as “longevity” in Mandarin. The three characters were also chosen for their meaning: “appearance”, “flavour” and “aroma”, respectively.18

Locations
Bee Cheng Hiang currently boasts 262 outlets internationally, including Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea. There are 38 retail stores in Singapore.19


The company decided to establish itself in Korean after hearing positive response from Korean customers who travelled to Singapore and Hong Kong. The company opened two outlets in Seoul in 2010, and has also decided to set up a factory in Korea to manufacture the food products locally.20

Bee Cheng Hiang’s bakkwa and other products
Bee Cheng Hiang’s bakkwa, freshly made every day, is prepared by weaving meat by hand, using a traditional bamboo sieve. It is then slowly smothered for hours over live coal, and barbecued over a glowing fire until it spatters. Bee Cheng Hiang does not use any food additives, colouring or seasoning in their products.21


Bee Cheng Hiang produces not only bakkwa or pork products, but also chicken and beef floss, cuttlefish and other assorted snacks. Their investment in research and development has helped to deliver a continual stream of new products. Every year, 100 new products are created, of which 20 make it to the shelves.22

In 1998, Bee Cheng Hiang introduced the snack Chiziban, a crispy version of its bakkwa and marketed as a healthier alternative.23 Subsequently, over the years, the company has launched many variations of its original bakkwa, such as the Gourmet Bakkwa, which is bakkwa in the form of bacon-like slices, Chilli Gourmet Bakkwa and Satay Bakkwa – the latter is marinated in spices usually used for making satay such as lemongrass.24 The company also started retailing individually wrapped, bite-size bakkwa as well as vacuum-packed bakkwa, which are aimed at consumers without easy access to a Bee Cheng Hiang outlet.25

Copycat products
In 2001, Bee Cheng Hiang faced the issue of copycat stalls cropping up during the Chinese New Year period at Chinatown. Stallholders sold bakkwa with packaging that featured the Bee Cheng Hiang brand name on a box but without the logo. The copycat bakkwa retailed at prices lower than the Bee Cheng Hiang’s from the official outlets. The company eventually did not take legal action against these stallholders, stating that the problem was prevalent only during the Chinese New Year period.26



References
1. Naleeza Ebrahim & Yaw, Y. Y. (2006). Singapore: Not just a good food guide. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 225. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 NAL); Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Milestones. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story/milestones.html; Hot stocks. (1997, February 4). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Queues all year round. (1994, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Mak, M. S. (2007, February 4). Banking on bak kwa. The Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story.html
4. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 110. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE); Queues all year round. (1994, January 30). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story.html
6. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 110. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE); Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story.html
7. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our story. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story.html
8. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE)
9. Reputable food manufacturers urged to tap Asian markets. (1995, July 12). The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Guan, L. B. (1995, January 15). Famous tidbit producers: Their recipe for success. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, pp. 113–114. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE)
11. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Research & development. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/what-we-believe/research-and-development.html; Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE)
12. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, pp. 116, 118. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE); Bee Cheng Hiang blends old and new for the perfect recipe. (2001, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG;
13. Huang, L. (2010, February 7). Brand new. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
14. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our corporate philosophy. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/what-we-believe/our-corporate-philosophy.html
15. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our corporate vision and mission. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/what-we-believe/vision-and-mission.html
16. Three SMEs show the way to success. (2001, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Bee Cheng Hiang blends old and new for the perfect recipe. (2001, August 6). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Bee Cheng Hiang. (2014). Our logo. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story/our-logo.html; Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 111. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE)
19. Bee Cheng Hiang. (2014). Our presence. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story/our-presence.html
20. Jethani, H. (2010, November 18). Seoul far so good for Bee Cheng Hiang. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
21. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Our bakkwa. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/our-story/our-bakkwa.html
22. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE); Pork art. (2007, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. This bak kwa is crispy and has less fat. (1998, December 27). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, pp. 115–116. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE); Slice of satay. (2005, June 9). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Bee Cheng Hiang. (n.d.). Vacuum packed bak kwa. Retrieved from Bee Cheng Hiang website: http://www.beechenghiang.com.sg/online-shop/vacuum-packed-bak-kwa-64.html; Lee, M. T. G. (2007). World conquest in progress. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Business, pp. 116. (Call no.: RSING 658.049095957 LEE)
26. Allen, P. (2001, January 18). Bak kwa copycat. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




This article was written by students from Hwa Chong Institution as part of the “50 Schools, 50 SMEs” initiative held in celebration of Singapore’s 50th birthday. For more details, please visit http://www.singapore50-ei.sg/project-50schools-50SMEs

 



The information in this article is valid as at 11 May 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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