A new taste of tradition : Chinese snacks and hawker-entrepreneurs in Singapore
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Traditional Chinese snacks have been part of Chinese food culture for years but many types of snacks have been disappearing in Singapore as a result of globalization and modernization. Since the late 1990s, however, some types of Chinese snacks have become increasingiy popular as they are being marketed in new food retail spaces. In the 1940s, kaya toast started as an inexpensive breakfast snack for Chinese immigrants but has since evolved into a lifestyle snack enjoyed by Singaporeans at any time of the day. The growing popularity of kaya toast and some other types of snacks has revived the traditional Chinese snack food industry. This thesis examines the re-emergence of a traditional Chinese snack culture in Singapore. It discusses the history of traditional Chinese snacks, its continuity and the changing nature of Chinese snack foods in Singapore. Based on case studies conducted in 2005 with retailers of selected traditional Chinese snack foods, the study examines when such food enterprises in Singapore were established, why they were established and the ways in which they were able to survive in the highly competitive market for various kinds of snack foods. It examines the business characteristics and strategies of the new vendors by comparing them to traditional hawkers in the past. Techniques employed in this study include interviews, participant observation, spatial mapping and document analysis. The findings indicate that the adaptation of the retailers by fusing authentic recipes with new ingredients and flavours, using modern technology, adopting marketing techniques, using media promotion, as well as the offering of a diverse product mix and the setting up of numerous retail outlets have helped the new hawker-entrepreneurs to stay competitive in the growing snack food market in Singapore.
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