SALT Magazine - - Heritage Heroes -

Like many tra­di­tional busi­nesses, Kwong On Cheong has had to adapt to the ris­ing tide of progress in Sin­ga­pore: ever-in­creas­ing land prices and cost of op­er­a­tions, and a short­age of man­power. For the 79-year-old soy sauce com­pany, this meant moving to Malaysia in or­der to pre­serve the tra­di­tional ways of mak­ing soy sauce. "If you want to brew soy sauce the tra­di­tional way, you need space. At the vol­ume that we were pro­duc­ing, we were forced to move to Johor Bahru in 2014, so that we would have enough land," says Ben­jamin Song, third gen­er­a­tion owner of the com­pany.

While relocating the fac­tory to Sin­ga­pore's im­me­di­ate neigh­bour might mean lower oper­at­ing costs on the sur­face, the move was fraught with chal­lenges. Shares the 32-year-old Song, "we en­tered Malaysia with­out much knowl­edge of the place. I went in my­self, sussed out the fac­tory, laid out the floor plans, got the li­cense. I ba­si­cally did ev­ery­thing on my own as my dad—who was run­ning the busi­ness up till the point when I en­tered—wanted me to head the move as he didn't want me to rely on him." With the move, Song had too much to worry about, in­clud­ing se­cu­rity, util­i­ties, and even po­ten­tial floods. Then, he had the de­tails: whether the fac­tory was suit­able for food pro­cess­ing, pa­per­work, and get­ting fa­mil­iar with the ad­min­is­tra­tive pro­ce­dures of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

For Song, mak­ing soy sauce was al­ways an even­tu­al­ity, as he echoes a fa­mil­iar sen­ti­ment: "I wanted to get ex­pe­ri­ence in the out­side world, so I stud­ied eco­nom­ics and fi­nance, and started work­ing in a re­lated field." Five years ago, he left a ca­reer in the fi­nance in­dus­try to join the fam­ily busi­ness, which started with Song's grand­fa­ther in 1939.

Like both Nanyang Sauce and Kwong Woh Hing, Song’s sauces are not re­tailed in large su­per­mar­kets, and in­stead have re­lied on a steady stream of loyal reg­u­lars— both con­sumers and busi­nesses—who pur­chase their sauces. He lets on that they “haven't done much mar­ket­ing

Like both Nanyang

Sauce and Kwong Woh Hing, Song’s sauces are not re­tailed in large su­per­mar­kets, and in­stead have re­lied on a steady stream of loyal reg­u­lars...

or pub­lic­ity be­cause [they] want to let the brand grow or­gan­i­cally", although they too, are begin­ning to move into on­line re­tail.

Kwong On Cheong’s most re­cent in­no­va­tion is some­thing called Light Soy Sauce Supreme, which they’ve be­gun re­tail­ing on­line on REDMART. Song ad­mits, "With the soy sauce, there's only so much we can do as it's a ba­sic house­hold ne­ces­sity. But this was made with ref­er­ence to Ja­panese-style soy sauce. It suits Chi­nese cui­sine, but I feel like it's one of the few, if not only, lo­cal soy sauce that can com­ple­ment sushi be­cause it doesn't have that lin­ger­ing salti­ness."

Check­ing on the soysauce brew­ing at Kwong On Cheong.

Kwong On Cheong Woh Hing Sauce Fac­tory Sauce www.nanyangsau­ Soy sauce vats at the Kwong On Cheong fac­tory in Johor Bahru.

Third gen­er­a­tion soy sauce pro­ducer Ben­jamin Song.

Kwong On Cheong lightsoy sauce.

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