Malaysia's Gardenia: We make bread, not enemies

Gardenia says in its full-page advertorial that it buys flour from certain sources based on ‘commercial reasons’.

Malaysian breadmaker Gardenia is facing a storm of protests after netizens called for the boycott of its products.

The netizens claim that the company is discriminating against one of its suppliers for "racial reasons".

They have also alleged that the company is owned by "an Umno crony". Umno is the largest party in the Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.

To make its side of the story heard, Gardenia Bakeries (KL) has taken out full-page advertisements in English dailies, refuting the claims.

The market leader also denied charges that it had been directed by Padiberas Nasional (Bernas), which has a 30 per cent stake in Gardenia, to stop buying flour from Malayan Flour Mills for racist reasons.

Bernas is owned by Tan Sri Syed Mohktar Al-Bukhary, while Malayan Flour Mills is controlled by Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok, liberal news portal Malaysian Insider reported.

Commercial reasons

Gardenia said in its full-page advertorial: "We buy flour from Malayan Flour Mills Bhd and Prestasi Flour Mills Sdn Bhd purely due to commercial reasons.

"In fact, Bernas has a stake in Y flour mill and yet we have never been directed or coerced to buy flour from it. This speaks volumes on (sic) the professionalism of the Bernas management."

The company added that it employs professional and ethical people "regardless of race or religion".

The anti-Gardenia campaign, calling for its boycott, began a month ago and was conducted online and mainly in Chinese.

The campaign urged consumers to support bread company Massimo, also owned by Mr Kuok, which entered the market recently.

One e-mail read: "Let's support the new Massimo bread by Robert Kuok and boycott Gardenia bread owned by Umno crony, Syed Mokhtar Albukhary's Tradewind group."

Gardenia earlier sought help from Democratic Action Party organising secretary Teresa Kok, who called the campaign "extremely racist and not acceptable".

The Seputeh MP said the public should not forward messages without first verifying the information contained within them.

The company claimed the campaign was the result of its success in providing high-quality products every day "come rain or shine".

The company said it had been the subject of falsehoods and rumours in the past.

"However, now, underhanded tactics with racial and political overtones have been used," it said.

"We all should not be party to this exploitation and manipulation to serve some narrow agenda."

The company also pointed out that it has been supporting many community projects since 1992 and was presently providing over 60 shelter homes with free bread products daily, regardless of race or religion.

This article was first published in The New Paper.