Illuminating and sweet examples of local products

Illuminating and sweet examples of local products
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Mr John Cheng is not sure why his late grandfather decided in the 1950s to colour the sugar, made in the family's factory, orange.

But the result, Star Brand Red Jaggery Sugar, has become a Singapore favourite which is often eaten with putu mayam and other local kueh.

Said Mr Cheng, 33: "The Red Jaggery Sugar is seen only in Singapore. You don't see it when you have putu mayam in Malaysia."

The sugar, together with Van Houten Chocolate, Tiger brand soya sauce and Double Prawn brand herbal oil, can be found at the 50 Made-in-Singapore Products exhibition, launched at the National Museum yesterday.

The orange sugar is one of several types still being made at a Chin Bee Drive factory by the third-generation family business Cheng Yew Heng, one of the biggest suppliers of refined sugar here.

Company director Mr Cheng said: "Our manufacturing process is still about the same as in the past. We crystalise liquid sugar in pails. We had 10 workers in the 1950s and now we have 30, most of them in their 60s and 70s."

While the company has been supplying mainly local businesses, it has started introducing its own retail brand, called Cheng, in supermarket chain Cold Storage.

Said Mr Cheng: "A lot of Singaporeans grow up with the orange sugar but many don't know it is made here. This exhibition will help raise awareness."

The National Heritage Board, which began work on the exhibition in 2012, found the local products, which include fashion, household and electronic items, by combing archival materials and annual reports, and approaching old local companies. Board chairman Ong Yew Huat said: "This exhibition is just another jigsaw piece in our heritage puzzle. For each of us it might be a different thing, a different colour, but it is important to cherish such things."

Although some products have lost their popularity here, others are thriving overseas - like kerosene lamps made by Lea Hin, which was formed in 1935.

Demand for such lamps in Singapore declined from the 1980s, but the lamp, which is now made in Indonesia, is still exported to places such as North America and Africa for daily household use or for camping. They are also commonly used by hawkers in Indonesia.

For the Singapore market, the company supplies products such as aluminium window grilles, industrial powder coatings and electrical appliances .

Mr Woo Ren Chai, 32, the third- generation director of Lea Hin, said: "When I was in Tanzania on holiday last year, I saw one of our kerosene lamps being used in a safari, in the middle of nowhere.

"A lot of people might not have an idea of how early the various industries here started and this exhibition will be a good chance for them to see in person some of the items that were made."

The exhibition is on till Sept 6. Admission is free.

This article was first published on July 16, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.