Traditional baker happy to pay up and keep recipes secret

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 July, 2010, 12:00am

How to make mouthwatering biscuits and mooncakes has always been a secret closely guarded by bakers.

So, to meet new labelling law requirements, the owner of a traditional bakery in Yuen Long said he would spend HK$380,000 to have his biscuits laboratory tested rather than divulge his recipes to a third party for evaluation.

The bakery, established in 1943, is known for its Chinese biscuits and mooncakes - a cake eaten to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. The new labelling law, which took effect yesterday, is a big challenge for traditional bakers, especially for those who want to keep their recipes secret, owner Tse Ching-yuen said.

Freshly baked buns sold by Western-style bakeries do not require nutritional labels, but Chinese bakeries, which offer a wide range of prepackaged biscuits and cakes, must provide labels.

Tse's shop offers about 100 products, including almond cakes and wedding cakes. Testing each costs HK$3,800, he said.

He insists he will get the products tested at a laboratory instead of offering the recipe - detailing ingredients and their amounts - to Chinese University which offers a nutritional calculation service.

'I don't want to pass the formula to anybody else,' Tse said.

Nevertheless, he said he regarded the cost as a long-term investment and would not raise the price of his products.

Meanwhile, one supermarket chain has not ruled out raising its prices to meet relabelling costs.

Wellcome has spent more than a month relabelling prepackaged food items, a supermarket spokeswoman said. The chain has used black marker pen to cross out labels such as 'low-fat' and 'low-sodium' on some of its products to avoid breaking the law.

'Most manufacturers and suppliers of imported goods are still reluctant to change their packaging just for the Hong Kong market,' she said. 'So it ends up with Wellcome and some importers having to put extra resources into repackaging or relabelling items to meet the legal requirement.'' Wellcome has posted notices explaining its move and assuring customers that the goods are safe.