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Century-old Bakery Transforming for a Future: An Interview with Desmond Wong, CEO of Hang Heung Cake Shop

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Anything related to heritage and traditions has become popular and chic in the consumer markets of late. Taiwanese Castella Sponge Cake, vintage themed cafes, and Hang Heung’s traditional bakery. Committed to product innovation, Hang Heung Cake Shop has been
under the spotlight again as it infuses modern, new elements to its classic Chinese delicacies. Desmond Wong, CEO of Hang Heung Cake Shop Co. Ltd, has been the driver behind its rejuvenation after taking up the leadership. While keeping superior food quality, he believes the company needs a new positioning and better engaged with consumers in order to sustain the century-old legend.

Famous Across Town and Advancing Through Times

”Hang Heung Cake Shop has been popular for 100 years because of our solid belief to produce fresh products in Hong Kong every day, and our impeccable quality control practice to maintain first-rate quality and unique taste. Our classic handmade Wife Cake and
pastries are best-selling items not only among local consumers, but also for overseas tourists as their must-buy souvenirs. Yet, times have changed. Even if we’re one of the premier brands, still we have to embrace changes to meet the various needs of the
new-generation consumers.”

“That’s why last year we introduced shortcrust pastry mooncake series with lava custard, matcha and red bean paste as well as Japanese black sesame flavours, packaged in stylish boxes. They were well received by lots of youngsters. In celebration of 100th anniversary this year, we will be launching a retro limited edition, ‘Eighth Happiness’, that used our classic design for seven mini assorted mooncakes plus one mooncake with five egg yolks, showing the essence of old Hong Kong. We’re sure this limited edition will win the hearts of consumers.”

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Prevention is Better than Cure for Counterfeits

The company’s success has put them under the radar of unscrupulous merchants. There was once a loyal customer who brought a then-new mooncake package to one of Hang Heung’s
retail shops, complaining about poor quality and taste. They later found out the mooncakes were not made by them. They had put in place a hologram anti-counterfeit label on the package, but unsurprisingly, they found a similar forged hologram on the counterfeit box, making it difficult for consumers to authenticate by naked eyes. They thus decided to adopt GS1 HK REAL Barcode solution to prevent counterfeits and offer consumers instant product
authentication by simply scanning a barcode.

“We were once notified of the production of fake Hang Heung mooncakes at a factory in a certain province in Mainland China. I went there to verify and report the counterfeit case but it was time-consuming and exhausting. We also found an illegitimate company acted on behalf of us, by switching the character of our brand. All these show that copycats are difficult to trace and almost impossible to completely annihilate. We think it’s more cost effective to educate consumers to distinguish between the real and fake products.”

REAL Barcode solution combines GS1 barcode with patented anti-forgery micro printing technology to prevent counterfeits. When consumers scan the REAL barcode / QR code with any mobile device using any app, REAL Barcode app will be activated to do a simple scan and perform product authentication instantly.

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Authenticate Mooncakes and Collect Data Using Barcode Scan

Hang Heung plans to print REAL Barcode label integrated with hologram design onto every mooncake package this year. “Customers are interested in interacting with brand owners in
addition to getting high-quality products. This solution not only enables customers to easily verify product authenticity, but also direct them to our online store, facilitating O2O cross selling. We’ll keep the anti-counterfeit hologram design to help the elderlies who are not familiar with technologies to have basic verification.” Hang Heung has been listening to consumers’ opinions and understanding their needs, in hope to strengthen the connection and experience between the brand and consumers continuously.

Desmond acknowleged that the ability to capture data behind the scan activities is key of this solution. “By collecting customer data such as location and time through the REAL barcode scan, our company can gain better insights and make data-driven decisions.”

CEO Rolling up Sleeves to Change

Transformation is no easy task. It involves changing a corporate system, and more importantly the adaptation and transition of hundreds of employees and suppliers. For Hang Heung, traditional craftsmanship and product quality must not be sacrificed. “Rome wasn't built in a day, and so does company transformation. We started our own online store  www.hangheung.com.hk just in 2019. We took baby steps to open online shops on e-marketplaces like HKTVmall, Zstore and Lazada, before we test the water to expand our online presence on Tmall in the future. The most difficult part in the transformation is delivery. We need to keep our pastries hot and our egg rolls in good condition. Only then we can gain more loyal customers.”

Hang Heung opened a pop-up store in Singapore before. Its pastry chef flew there to produce hot, fresh-from-the-oven Wife Cake and other pastries in the store, and attracted loads of local customers. Desmond believes South East Asia will be a key market for Hang Heung in the future. The company is developing frozen pastries for sales in overseas market, allowing consumers to simply bake the pastries hot and serve right away.

A very hands-on kind of executive, Desmond knew inside out his company from business development strategy to details of lotus seed and egg yolks supply. Perhaps it is this commitment and tenacity that makes Hang Heung continues to shine and thrive in the domestic and global markets for years.

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