Phoon Huat: My Great Grandfather’s Legacy

Recent news has had my family and friends in a little tizzy because of Standard Chartered’s Private Equity arm’s investment (“a significant stake”) in my family’s company, Phoon Huat.

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(By the way, congratulations to Phoon Huat and to everyone who has contributed to its success, especially our customers!)

While the details of this investment is confidential, I will provide some other morsels of information.

#1: Who started Phoon Huat and Who runs it now? 

Wong Tai Fuang. He was an immigrant from Hainan Island, China. My granduncle, Wong Chen Liong, runs it now.

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At a family lunch on Hari Raya Puasa this year. Background (Left to Right): My uncle James Wong (Alternate Director & New Projects Director); Me and a sleeping Xaxa; My granduncle, Wong Chen Liong. Foreground: My auntie, Audrey Wong.

#2: Why did Wong Tai Fuang choose to start a baking supplies company? 

After the war, many Hainanese cooks and bakers who worked for the British started their own businesses (coffeeshops, steakhouses, cakes, cookies). My great grandfather thought it would be a good idea to supply to these business owners. At that time, it was common for the different dialect groups to trade within their own circle.

#3: What does “Phoon Huat” mean?

Phoon means to “work hard and put in effort” (in Hainanese) to become prosperous (huat). The Chinese characters are “奋” (as in “”, to strive) and “财” (as in 发财, to prosper).

And no, there is nobody in my family called “Phoon Huat”. (If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this…)

#4: How has Phoon Huat grown since 1947 when it first started out? 

When Phoon Huat first started on Middle Road, there were only a handful of products that were imported from England: non-refrigerated margarine, dried fruits, baking powder, food colouring and flavouring, and baking cases. These items were all imported from England since Singapore was formerly a British colony.

Today we have 12 outlets and the company stocks 3,000 products from at least 30 countries, including marzipan from Norway, butter from France (delicious – I only ever use this butter in all my bakes) and vanilla beans from Madagascar.

#5: Part of Singapore’s History

Phoon Huat made it to the Singapore National Library Board’s Living The Singapore Story. It’s a commemorative book for Singapore’s 50th year of independence (SG50) and it features Phoon Huat since it has grown together with Singapore.

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Left to right: Managing Director of Phoon Huat and my granduncle, Wong Chen Liong; My grandfather, Wong Chen Keng; and my uncle John Wong.

Do you have any other questions about Phoon Huat? Drop me an email at lise@thesupermamapreneur.com and I’ll see if I can answer them.

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