30 January 2014

Chinese new year shopping sprees as an occasion to bond

Chinese new year is a special time of year for the food industry in Singapore. Once a year, in the weeks leading up to Chinese new year, a number of food manufacturers and distributors open up their premises for sales direct to the public. Some of these may be well known brands, but others are small operations which do not have a retail outlet at all. 

Others are open to the public year-round, but stock up on Chinese new year goodies in preparation for one of the biggest holidays of the year. They may bring in special festive foods just for this period, erect tents to accommodate added stocks, or price their products very attractively. 

Planning an excursion to these food manufacturers could be an occasion for relationship-building for employees, partners or even customers. Everybody loves a bargain. While the period before Chinese new year would be an ideal time, such a trip could be planned at any other time of year as well. 

The draw for participants is that they can benefit from wholesale pricing, and would not have to drive around locating the companies themselves, nor deal with parking. 

As the organiser, you would merely have to decide on the logistics, invite everyone, and spell out the ground rules. Many bus charter companies have drivers who are already familiar with the most popular destinations, which include Senoko, Woodland Terrace, and Pandan Loop. Here are some tips for a successful trip:
  1. Call the companies ahead of time to check their opening hours, and that they welcome sales to the public. Some are not open on Sundays, for example.
  2. Factor in some extra time at each destination for enthusiastic shoppers, or those who have wandered too far.
  3. Make sure you have everyone's mobile numbers in case some participants go missing.
  4. Make pick-up points and times very clear. The bus cannot wait for long in crowded areas.
  5. Arrange for some empty seats or a spacious luggage compartment as the purchases can be bulky. 
  6. Food items may require chilled environments so advise everyone to bring insulated bags to keep their shopping at optimum temperatures.
  7. Plan the route so that frozen goods are last on the itinerary.
  8. Do a little research so you can share which companies are the most popular, and what they are known for. Bear in mind that some companies do have retail outlets elsewhere, so there may not be as much incentive to shop at the manufacturing facility.
Some possible destinations:

Victoria Wholesale Centre, 101 Kallang Avenue

There are many shops here, mostly selling dried seafood and bird's nest.

Kampong Ubi Industrial Estate

This area, around Ubi avenue 2, has several roast duck outlets but is also known for traditional Chinese buns and cakes.

Woodlands Terrace

Food tasting at Melvados
There are a number of food companies along this stretch. Fassler Gourmet at no. 46 supplies seafood to the supermarkets. Daisho at no. 56 is a supplier to major Japanese restaurants, but only does Chinese new year sales. Melvados at no. 26 offers monthly tasting sesssions for halal desserts and baked goods which can then be purchased frozen, on the spot.

Pandan Loop

Tai Sun, which produces nut and dried fruit snacks, is based at no. 255, while Hock Seng Food, known for its Hosen brand of canned fruit, is at no. 267. Hock Seng is only open to the public before Chinese new year.

Fishery Port Road

Song Fish Dealer at no. 19 offers frozen and fresh seafood, while Far Ocean Sea Products next door will slice sashimi as well.