SINGAPORE - BreadTalk Group said on Monday morning (Sept 10) that it expects to open the first Wu Pao Chun bakery in Singapore at Capitol Piazza next year, as it signed a joint venture agreement to operate the Taiwanese brand in the Republic and Hong Kong.
BreadTalk took an 80 per cent stake in the joint venture, with Wu Pao Chun Food Ltd holding the remainder. The two companies entered into a similar partnership in March to operate bakeries in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
Wu Pao Chun, which is named after its founder, operates three flagship stores in the Taiwanese cities of Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung. Its top products include its "Taiwan Longan with Red Wine" and "Taiwan Litchi Rose Champion" breads.
Mr George Quek, chairman of BreadTalk Group, said the flagship Wu Pao Chun bakery in Shanghai is scheduled to open in November this year.
"We look forward to leverage our market knowledge of Singapore and Hong Kong to serve our fans in these cities with Wu Pao Chun's award-winning bread series," he added.
During an interview in May with Straits Times executive editor Sumiko Tan, Mr Quek said he was not afraid that Wu Pao Chun would affect the popularity of his own bakeries.
He said: “This is a collaboration, like 1+1=2. I don’t see him as competition.”
Mr Wu Pao-chun, the founder of the bakery which shares his name, was born in Pingtung County in Taiwan.
The youngest of eight children, he was 17 when he started out as a baking apprentice in various bakeries, before getting the opportunity to participate in bread competitions at the age of 26.
Calling it a “dream fulfilled”, he won the title of Master Baker at the Masters de la Boulangerie, or Bakery Masters in Paris, in 2010, with his Taiwan Litchi Rose bread.
That same year, he opened his first store in Kaohsiung. This was followed in 2013 with one in Taipei. He opened his third store last year in Taichung.
He also made the news in 2013 for not getting into the Executive Master of Business Administration programme at the National Chengchi University and National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan.
Instead, he was accepted at the National University of Singapore. His stint gave him a better understanding of the scene here and his favourite local delights are Mao Shan Wang durians, Hainanese chicken rice, bak kut teh and kopi si with crispy kaya toast.
Mr Wu was introduced to the BreadTalk Group about four years ago by Din Tai Fung chief executive Yang Jihua, before the partnership with BreadTalk in March this year.
In a Sunday Times report in March, Mr Wu said: “I had no intention of expanding Wu Pao Chun overseas at that point. I was more concerned about stabilising my business.
“But we became more familiar with each other over the years. I have been approached by other parties to expand, but many were not in the bakery business, not even in food.”
He added that he would like to use local ingredients in Singapore, particularly curry spices as well as durians.
Earlier this year, members of the Singapore food scene also welcomed Wu Pao Chun’s entry here.
Pine Garden’s Cake’s second generation owner and managing director Wei Chan told The Sunday Times: “Mr Wu has led a humble life and made a name for himself on a global scale. That deserves much respect... I would be happy to welcome him to my store to tap his experience.”
Chef Daniel Tay, founder of the Old Seng Choong confectionery and Cat & The Fiddle cheesecake brands, said he held Wu Pao Chun in high regard.
He said: “It is not just about the ingredients that are used, but also the fermentation techniques that are put in. He understands those techniques very well and that takes time – like wine that has to mature.”