5 Solid Lessons from the Bread-now-you-better-don’t-talk Saga

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I don’t usually do all these current affairs commentaries. In fact, once a week is pretty darn rare by my standards, let alone twice a week. I was telling Kenneth, my unpopular opinion khaki, that I am trying not to do too many of these, because it isn’t really my style. But this time, as I was observing the comments from disgruntled and disillusioned (ex) BreadTalk fans, I just  couldn’t resist!

So what happened this time?

In the spotlight today is BreadTalk, a homegrown bakery, and the first in Singapore to take the traditional Singapore bakery model and really commercialise it in a way no other mom-and-pop bakery had done before. Their buns and cakes are pretty much staples for most Singaporeans who can afford the confectionary retail chain’s prices. The stylish “well-packaged” bakery chain concept grew rapidly since it’s conception in 2000 and now the group manages several other F&B concepts… most of which rake in some serious moolah like Din Tai Fung, Toastbox and Food Republic.

Basically, someone caught an employee from BreadTalk filling up little plastic bottles for the bakery’s house brand beverages with packet soya bean milk from another local brand, Yeo’s (Yeo Hiap Seng). While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, let’s just say that these bottles were labelled “Freshly Prepared” and were sold at $1.80 which is a whopping premium compared to most hawkers selling soya bean milk made from scratch. It really doesn’t help that a 1-litre packet would usually cost about $1.50.

Obviously, this reeked of deception and netizens were not pleased. (There’s been 888 comments on the apology posted on the brand’s Facebook Page and growing.)

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Things have reached kind of a “BURN HIS HOUSE! BEAT HIS MOTHER!” stage for now.

Emotions are heightened… I’m guessing it’s mostly the sting of betrayal, the kind you feel when your blood related relative sells you a magic stone that can “cure cancer” or when a good friend suddenly calls you out for lunch and then tries to spring their MLM (multi-level marketing) company on you, but worse, because initially they claimed it was an “e-commerce business opportunity”. There’s plenty of outrage to pass around the internet at this point.

If you want to understand what the hell is going on, read this article.

I just had to share with you these five golden nuggets from the Bread-now-you-better-don’t-Talk saga. These are solid lessons I learnt while reading the comments by impassioned netizens.

1. KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE, YOUR FRENEMIES CLOSER
Especially if they visit your brothers fishball noodles stall

So one nostalgic customer of BreadTalk made a list of what went wrong in all the frankness she could muster and even reminisced about better times long past.

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“The staff who was pouring the soya ‘fresh’ milk into the 350ml bottles is not wearing a mask. This is done so manually. 1st thing freshness is compromised, 2nd matter hygiene is compromised. 3rd thing dishonesty is displayed. 4th truth making money is the ultimate aim. I remembered the first year when breadtalk was opened, I was attracted by the fragrance of their pork floss buns. You could not miss the fragrance from the met exits or entrances. Now there isn’t such an overwhelming fragrance from breadtalk buns anymore. Sigh!!” 

And was chastised by an angry friend, or in this case, frenemy.

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“Wear a mask? You are really too far-fetched. Go fine dining, would the chefs wear a mask? McDonald’s, would the crew wear a mask? Food courts, do they wear mask too? Coffeeshop, mask also? Do you cook with mask also? xxxx, your bro’s fish ball stall at xxxx, they were preparing fish ball without mask also. Double standard eh? Your mindset is really masked. It’s a requirement to possess at least Basic Food Hygiene Course certification, not mask.”

The winning rebuttal was… “Your mindset really masked.” Only in Singapore this all makes sense.

But yes, no better way to weed the friends from frenemies than by participating in a current affairs discussion on Facebook.

2.  IF CAN’T TAHAN, TOLONG, DON’T BUY LEH
Complaining about it for years isn’t changing anything

So this guy doesn’t really care much about the soya bean, but has a bigger bone to pick with the Long John Silver’s near his house… because they dilute the Milo there. (Tak Ghiu add water one!)

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“At least the soya bean tastes good, the long john near my house, saw the staff mix a jug of water into the ice milo dispenser…..” 

To which his good friend gives him golden advice.

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“You’ve been complaining about the long john for years, bro.. boycott sua..” 

Obviously, this friend has heard this story one time too often… FOR YEARS and looks like the Milo is still diluted.

Besides that, Milo must dilute one lah bro…

3. INTRODUCING SINGAPORE’S SOYA BEAN CONNOISSEURS
No taste escapes them. Even if it hits them two years later.

Of course, some of us have some of the most sensitive taste buds ever granted to human kind, like this person, who clearly is not a fan. Even as far back as two years ago.

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“It does not taste fresh at all. So different taste from the hawker centre type n even mr. Bean.. That’s the feeling I got when I tried 2 yrs ago.”

I can barely remember something I’ve eaten a week ago (without the help of my FitnessPal app at least), let alone something two years ago (unless it’s super amazing). But I guess, the taste was so horrific, it was hard to forget. Poor thing. Give this woman a palate cleanser, pronto!

4. SOYA BEAN MILK CAN DESTROY OUR HEALTH
… or cause cancer or something whichever is worse

Many people are so appalled that BreadTalk didn’t come clean that they’re using Yeo’s Soya Milk as their own house brand. The deception is truly terrible, but what really sucks balls is that they are using Yeo’s Soya Bean Milk, dammit! No one actually drinks that because apparently it can drastically destroy your health!

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“Breadtalk is Not sincere and apologetic at all.. was wondering whose idea is this? Cause I had seen a interview of Breadtalk boss in TV and he is a very sincere and humble guy. If he had recruit the wrong bunch of people it’s time for him to do something about it. Else the whole company will be gone in anytime as it’s so competitive in Singapore. Feels so cheated. My 5 years old son drank the soya milk almost everyday thinking that it’s fresh!!! It’s really Ruin a Kid growing up and health!!!”

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“Is so sad that they been cheating us, my children been drinking the “freshly Prepared” soya bean milk every time we pass by… Now that we all knew is re bottle… How are they going to compensate us? What will be the punishment for Bread Talk?? Hopefully is not just talk only! We want to see actions!”

I hope that other than unethically “freshly prepared” soya bean milk, these children are not indulging in fruit juices, McDonald’s, luncheon meat and a host of other preservative laden food so common in Singapore today. Because at this rate of alarm, maybe we can blame our children’s low IQ, hyperactivity and also rude behaviour on this soya bean milk and it’s preservatives.

On a serious note, I understand most parents should be concerned that soya bean drinks with a longer shelf life are marketed as fresh, but maybe you should consider… plain water, because even “fresh” soya bean milk from the hawker centres aren’t the exemplary health benefit packed beverage of choice as they are commonly marketed.

Truth be told, these soya bean beverages are packed full of sugar. I hate to go into a health education lesson, but if you’re really gonna play the health card, I believe you should just stick to the regular dairy as it has more vitamins and calcium (which also has preservatives).

5. THE BEST SOYA BEAN DRINK AWARD
… goes to Yeo’s!

And this astute and observant gentleman is the only person who hit the nail on the head because the single most important message from this entire fiasco should be this.

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“At least we now know Yeo Hiap Seng makes the best soya bean drink in a pack. This is the single best proof of concept where a brand repacks another brand’s product, sells for a premium, yet everyone enjoyed the taste. Kudos YHS.”

Seriously, man… if you look at the amount of Soya Bean Milk some people are having from BreadTalk. There must be something BreadTalk is doing right that Yeo’s isn’t, because the Soya Bean drink is obviously #winning.

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I can imagine the folks from Yeo’s going all, “OMG! KEY MESSAGE GUYS! We’re the most loved soya bean brand, blind tested by a nation.”

The comments are just gold! It really made my hour and a half long travel home so enjoyable because these wonderful nuggets can really provide hours of endless entertainment!

I understand everyone is very upset, but must jangan tension and maintain balan a bit lah.

My take on this fiasco is that the business made a serious mistake. They may or may not have realise how unethical repackaging the Yeo’s Soya Bean and selling it as “Freshly Prepared” was. The focus was definitely on  maximizing their profits and they made a really silly business decision that escalated into a Public Relations disaster because of a pretty rubbish apology.

That said, I think the amount of vitriol towards BreadTalk is so out of damn proportion to the crime. I mean they should be dealt with, but wow, this is some kind of fall out. One of the worst break ups ever.  I guess people would naturally be mad, they can’t decide if they can bear to stay or leave their lying, cheating, boyfriend/girlfriend favourite bakery.

But then at end the of the day, we all know, Singaporean netizens never forgive, but they sure as hell forget damn fast.

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… or at least shift focus to next thing to complain all day and night about.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this website are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect views of my employer. The posts and opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own. They do not represent (nor are they intended to represent) the positions, opinions or policies of my employer or any other company or person. The comments on this site are moderated, but even so the opinions expressed in those comments are not necessarily shared by me.

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