Food Places

Tong Heng: Adapting to Changing Times

by Cheng Qin Celestia and Tan Hui Ling Lidya (Ngee Ann Polytechnic)

Tong Heng Delicacies is a well-known pastry shop in the heart of Chinatown. To preserve an element of Cantonese culinary culture in this bustling city, Tong Heng Delicacies finds new ways to attract millennials while keeping the regular customers content. Find out more about how Tong Heng has innovated to keep its offerings exciting and endearing for both the young and the old!

Staffs preparing to serve customers during the busy period on a weekday. Image credits to Lidya, 2021.

If you walk past Tong Heng Delicacies, you would be greeted with the sweet and savoury smell of its pastries. To honour the history of the confectionery, Tong Heng Delicacies retained certain features of the original facade from 1935, like the handcrafted Chinese characters on both pillars at the storefront.

Tong Heng Delicacies is famous for its signature diamond-shaped egg tart, BBQ pork crisps, wife biscuits and coconut egg tarts. Ana Fong, the fourth generation of the family who runs the store, loves experimenting with recipes and strongly believes in caring for the environment. The store now has vegan options which give customers a larger variety of choices and can enjoy Tong Heng’s pastries. Notably, the Wife Pastry are popular as they are dairy-free and do not contain desiccated coconut. Perfect for customers who do not have a sweet tooth and is also suitable for those with dietary limitations.

Captivating packaging designs, adding vibrancy to the front of the store - yellow for egg tarts, red for wedding cakes and blue for mooncakes. Image credits to Tong Heng.

Despite the humid weather, customers were seen queuing for Tong Heng’s famous egg tart. Image credits to Tong Heng.

With the rapid pace of urbanisation in post-independence Singapore, many traditional brands have struggled to keep up with the times and had to close their doors as a result. Tong Heng Delicacies, however, has grown in popularity amongst millennials since its revamp. The new look for its store, its brightly-coloured pastry box and a new logo, allowed Tong Heng to stand out among its competitors. As a young millennial walking past Chinatown, I would not have guessed that Tong Heng is an over 80-year old confectionery selling traditional Cantonese pastries. Instead, I would have thought that it’s a café because of its refined and eclectic interior.

Furthermore, Tong Heng grew its online presence through strategic collaborations – for example, with a nearby café, Maxi Coffee Bar in April. As part of this collaboration, Tong Heng and Maxi Coffee Bar jointly created a special Gula Melaka egg tart paired with Maxi’s special Coconut Cold Brew, which was exclusive for a limited time period. This collaboration was promoted on both partners’ social media platforms, creating cross-publicity.

“Continuity of a heritage brand is a challenge, as it involves adapting to changes whilst safekeeping our traditions to grow”

- Ana Fong

<em>The Logo Revamp.</em> Image credits to Tong Heng.
The Logo Revamp. Image credits to Tong Heng.
<em>Tong Heng's New Brand Logo.</em> Image credits to Tong Heng.
Tong Heng's New Brand Logo. Image credits to Tong Heng.

Egg Tart’s Packaging. Image credits to Tong Heng.

With the new refreshed logo and increased presence on social media, Tong Heng is now more recognisable among the millennials. Additionally, with both English and Mandarin characters on its new logo, Tong Heng is now identifiable by a broader community.     

Through a shared appreciation for Tong Heng’s pastries, the confectionery and its pastries attracts people and becomes a topic of interest - the elders share their stories and memories while the young learn more about life back then. Adopting a revamp of the business while retaining its traditional roots, Tong Heng has successfully kept the Cantonese culture and traditions alive in Singapore.   

Cheng Qin Celestia and Tan Hui Ling Lidya (Ngee Ann Polytechnic)

Celestia and Lidya are Arts Business Management students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. In our course of studies, we dabble our feet in different aspects of art and learn the fundamentals of business as well. Before this, Celestia and Lidya were from ITE, Celestia graduated from Events Management and Lidya graduated from Service Management. Celestia's hobbies include watching online entertainment shows and loves to read novels, while Lidya loves exploring Singapore with a camera in her hand.

Art Business Management, Ngee Ann Polytechnic aims to cultivate an appreciation for various creative art forms in people. Equipped with business and management skills, they hope to manage, market and finance arts and heritage organisations.

Other fascinating stories & events…

Scenes from Tekka: Indian Muslim Hawkers Hard at Work

Indian Muslim hawker stalls are commonplace in Singapore. Their innovative dishes are a staple, but what does it take to produce consistent and quality food day in and day out under sweltry conditions? At Tekka Centre, which has the record highest number of Indian Muslims stalls under one roof, the guardians of Indian Muslim food heritage share their daily experiences.

Open Business @ Heng Foh Tong

16 May • 02:00pm • Bukit Batok

An intimate online theatre about the journey of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Singapore brand. Shared by three generations of Host Storytellers and co-created with Theatre Today.

ACM: Remembering Hawker Culture Along the River

10 May • 07:00pm

Discover hawker culture of old along the Singapore River through the stories and memories of David Lim