BreadTalk passing off Yeo’s soya bean milk as ‘freshly prepared’

From ‘BreadTalk gets stern warning from CASE’, 7 Aug 15, article by Jessica Lim, ST

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has issued a strongly- worded warning to bakery BreadTalk, informing the firm that its recent actions were in breach of the law. It also warned the company that it would take action should such “flagrant breaches” continue.

The bakery chain came under fire for selling soya bean milk from Yeo’s in bottles labelled “freshly prepared” at many of its outlets.

A video of a BreadTalk worker pouring the drink from a Yeo’s carton into the bottles, which was widely circulated on the Internet, had sparked off the angry reaction.

…”The questionable practice by BreadTalk is unacceptable,” said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon. “By indicating the words ‘freshly prepared’ on the bottles, consumers may reasonably be deceived or misled to believe that the soya bean milk was freshly brewed in-house and therefore commands a higher value than Yeo’s pre-packed soya bean milk.”

Hey BreadTalk, Soya think you can cheat customers, eh? The company reportedly repacked and sold 350ml bottles at $1.80, from 1L packs of Yeo’s from Fairprice at $1.50 (probably currently going at 50% cheaper because of SG50). The question of what a bakery is doing selling soya bean milk aside, this cost-cutting stunt appears to be a desperate attempt to recuperate from the LKY bun fiasco back in April. If anything, this incident serves as a warning to consumers to educate themselves about how ‘Big Bread’ sources and markets their wares, and how ‘natural’ BreadTalk’s  ‘Natural Yeast Bread’ really is.

Food scams aren’t new. As far back as the early 1900’s, merchants were passing off butter as ‘cheap margarine’. One furious Forum writer compared the Yeo’s deceit to the case of meat suppliers passing off beef as mutton.  We panicked about the horsemeat scandal affecting our Ikea Swedish meatballs. Milk formula giant Wyeth sneaked lutein, unapproved as a nutrient by AVA, into their products. Yet despite all the lies and scares, we trust our AVA to do their jobs; that we don’t end up eating mislabelled, taboo meat, or pay a premium for something that you could get in bulk at a petrol kiosk during a CNY promotion. Fortunately for us, we were spared the raisin muffin aluminium scare which broke in BreadTalk HK back in 2014.  Not sure if these were labelled as ‘Freshly Smelted’.

BreadTalk apologised for the ‘misaligned presentation‘ in their Facebook page, which is a sugar-coated way of saying ‘we cocked up’. Sure, nobody got poisoned by the in-house repackaging, and one could argue that if you’re running a public listed company, some corner-cutting is likely to tolerated. I don’t expect your soup to be ‘home-brewed’, or even your bottled juice to be ‘freshly squeezed’. In fact, we all need to take such claims with a pinch of salt. Restaurants dress up their dishes with seductive claims all the time, whether it’s ‘slow-cooked’, ‘hand-made’, ‘homemade’, ‘organic’ or worse, ‘ARTISANAL’. We see things like ‘Natural Flavour’ in our foods but don’t think twice before dropping it in our shopping carts. It’s all in the marketing, but unlike BreadTalk, at least most people bother to hide their tricks away from concerned customers. I mean, just look at this Ferrero Rocher ad. It features a guy wearing an actual chef’s hat. And hazelnuts picked with fine tweezers.

If there’s anything that BreadTalk management knows it’s how to trim expenses. Founder George Quek was himself selected to be part of a ministerial pay review committee in 2011. They were also accused of discriminatory hiring practises, with one Malaysian HR manager reportedly signing up only his own countrymen. Well, as the saying goes – Talk is Cheap.

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