Kee Wah Bakery (奇華餅家): A Case Study on the Westernization of a Local Chinese Bakery and Its Establishment of a Global Empire

By Patrick Lo.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In China, as well as Hong Kong, food is heavily laden with social and cultural meanings. In fact, cake making has a long history in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong has always been a place where East meets West. Breads, Western cakes and biscuits have been on the markets since early days. However, for a while, with Western-style cakes’ and breads’ growing popularity, traditional Chinese cakes had actually become less common for a while. But nowadays, traditional-style Chinese cakes still attract/re-attract customers with their established reputation and new image, and a variety of Chinese wedding cakes produced by Kee Wah Chinese Bakery (KW) are still familiar to the people in Hong Kong. KW now manufactures their products with a unique Chinese traditional flavour and packaging – carrying special meanings and constitutes a powerful symbol of the spirit of the City. KW was originally founded in Hong Kong in 1938 by Mr. WONG Yip-wing (1911 - 1999). The Company is well known in Hong Kong and overseas for its signature products, e.g., the traditional Chinese bridalcakes and mooncakes, though a wide range of Chinese and KW’s Western delicacies is equally popular. In addition, the Bakery also offers a variety of Chinese favorites and delicacies, including traditional Chinese egg-rolls and pineapple paste cakes. In fact, the history of this multi-national bakery can be traced back to the pre-World War II period. The founder, Mr. WONG Yip-wing started the business as a humble tuck shop in the late 1930s with only three staff, selling only modest candies and loaning comic books to the youngsters. KW in its earlier decades was operating as a neighbourhood business. The business continued but not without difficulties during the post World War II period in the 1940s and 1950s. With limited supply of ingredients and equipments, Mr. Wong and his dedicated staff started the business of making traditional Chinese pastry. Demands and expectations from customers were quite easy to meet those days when most people had to work hard to make their ends meet. Life in general was without much excessive. Unexpectedly, Mr. WONG was able to make the business a big success. KW’s business took on a new turn in the 1970s and 1980s when Hong Kong’s economy began to take off. Traditional Chinese baked goods also began to shine a new light at that time.

This paper analyzes the following:

1. The reasons and the beginning of KW’s Westernization and modernization.

2. The authenticity of KW’s products, and their association with the traditional Chinese culture.

3. KW and Chinese Disapora -- what are the symbolic and cultural meanings behind the KW’s products, and their association with the overseas Chinese immigrants, as well as how overseas Chinese immigrants have also become KW’s target audience.

4. Why is there a market for traditional Chinese bakery in North America.

5. How does KW relate itself to the rapidly changing economies and consumption patterns in Hong Kong, as well as it relations with Heunggongyan (Hong Kong Chinese people) Community.

6. KW’s new packaging and its association with the Company’s new brand identity.

7. The reasons behind KW’s success, and its association with the concept of “Patriotic Chic”?

Keywords: Kee Wah Chinese Bakery, Bakers and Bakeries - Hong Kong (China), Bakers and Bakeries - Marketing, Chinese Diaspora

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.77-88. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.181MB).

Dr. Patrick Lo

Cataloguing Librarian, Assistant Librarian, Cataloguing Section, Lingnan University Library, Hong Kong

Mr. Lo is currently a candidate of Doctor of Education (EdD), at Bristol University (UK). He has a Master of Arts in Design Management (MA) from Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2004), a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from McGill University (Canada; 1994), and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Mount Allison University, (Canada; 1992). Mr. Lo also took part in a one-year academic exchange programme at Tuebingen University (Germany) from 1990-91. Mr. Lo is efficient in: Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese (Putunghua), English and German. 1996-2007, Mr. Lo was serving as Cataloguing Librarian at Lingnan University Library (Hong Kong). 2003-06, Mr. Lo was also serving as the Coordinator of the Library as Cultural Centre activities at Lingnan University Library. Mr. Lo's professional affiliations include the following: (1) 1999-2006 - Secretary of JULAC-HKCAN (Hong Kong Chinese Name Authority) Workgroup. (2) 1993-2006 - Representative of Lingnan University Library (Hong Kong) for the Hong Kong JULAC-BSC (Bibliographic Services Committee). (3) 2004 - present - Member of CALIS (China Academic Library and Information System) Unicat Expert Group. Mr. Lo has presented close to 40 research papers and project reports focusing on humanities, education, and library science at different local and international workgroup meetings, seminars, conferences, including: Mainland China, Hong Kong, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Japan, United States, Korea, and Sweden; including presenting at: (1) The Library of Congress (U.S.), (2) Austrian National Library (Vienna), (3) University of Vienna, (4) National Library of France (Paris), (5) National Institute of Informatics (Japan), etc. Mr. Lo’s recent professional activity includes presenting “Using Outsource Data of Digital Resources in Creating Our Own Bibliographic Records: Lingnan University Library’s Experience in Converting Naxos Music Library and Spoken Word Library Online Titles to MARC Records” at the 72nd IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) Conference in Seoul, Korea, in August 2006: http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla72/papers/123-Tam_Lo-en.pdf Mr. Lo's research interests include: latest developments of Metadata, Chinese authority works, and cataloguing among Chinese libraries in Asia and North America; exploring potentials for resources sharing among Chinese libraries in Asia; future development and enhancement of bibliographic records; users’ interaction with the online catalogue; Western classical music, especially Italian operas, vocal music of German Post-Romantic period, Lieder (German art songs), etc. Award(s): Most Active Presenter Award of HKIUG (Hong Kong Innovative Users Group) Annual Meeting in December 2006. Recent Activity: serving as Reporter of Recent Serials Publications in China of Fontes Artis Musicae Journal.

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