Memories of Biscuit Factories in Singapore

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Former Thye Hong Biscuit Confectionary Factory blog.  Excerpts from “My Queenstown Heritage Trail” with courtesy of “My Queenstown” project team.

The former Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionery Factory at the junction of Alexandra Road and Tiong Bahru Road was one of the oldest biscuit manufacturers in Singapore. Built at a cost of $250,000, the 40,000 square feet factory was opened in March 1935 to modernise biscuit manufacturing and expand production through automation.

The factory comprised of two fully automated plants which weighed 65 tonnes each and measured 300 feet long. In this stretch, conveyor belts would pass the carpets of dough from which the biscuits were stamped, baked, cooled and packed in tins. In the 1960s, the factory employed more than 200 workers and produced 1,500 tonnes of biscuits every month.

Turned out from the factory each day was a wide variety of biscuits ranging from Marie Cream Crackers, Horlicks biscuits to Jam De Luxe cookies, a popular shortcake with pineapple jam sandwiched in between. The factory also produced the famous Torch brand sweets which were served to air travellers abroad Malaysian Airways flights. The factory exported biscuits and confectioneries to Hong Kong, Fiji, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and even Mauritius.

Tay Cheng Tar, 97, had worked as an accountant at Thye Hong from 1947 to 1981. He recalled,” There were many departments within the factory – production, packaging, marketing and so on. The machines would operate through the night so as to meet the massive demand from overseas markets.”

With courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and contributors from various sources, the archived photos are curated to share on related topics.

The following archived photos of former Minister for Social Affairs Othman Bin Wok visited Thye Hong Biscuit Factory on 3 May, 1975. We are able to learn the manufacturing process, the machineries and the different types of jobs required by the workers who were male or female, young or old.

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The final processing stage for the completed products to be packed for delivery and distribution to reach the customers.

School Excursion to the factories

The graduating pupils of Tao Nan School on an excursion to the former Ho Ho Biscuit Factory on 25 September, 1951.

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During my primary school year-end holidays, the teachers would organize school excursions for the students to visit places of interest such as the MacRitchie Reservoir, Haw Par Villa, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station or Pulau Brani in Singapore.

In 1960, the Primary 5 school excursion did not visit factories in Singapore. There were few factories of “Made in Singapore” products because the industrialization program in independent Singapore was launched after 1963.

Most of the products imported from Britain were indicated as “Her Majesty Service” which are approved for the best quality “Made in England”.

Since the Quality Management System certification from SGS helps most organizations develop and improve performance. ISO certification enables the local entrepreneurs to demonstrate high levels of service quality when bidding for contracts and a valid ISO certificate shows that the organizations follow internationally recognized quality management principles.

factories in 1960

Light industrial manufacturing and ship-building are two economic activities in the Tanjong Rhu area.  In the picture we can see the Khong Guan Biscuit silos, the Vosper Thornycraft shipyards, the unique slanting shaped building of the Woh Hup Complex at Beach Road, and the revolving restaurant of The Mandarin Hotel on Orchard Road (further in the background).  First Mansion and the Ambassador Hotel at Meyer Road are in the picture (foreground) in 1976.

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