The rise and rise of yeast

An employee at Phoon Huat's Braddell branch checking the last digit of customers' IC numbers, before giving them queue numbers, on May 14, 2020. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

When the going gets tough, the tough bake bread.

Yeast, bread flour - in truth - all kinds of flour, vanished from supermarket shelves faster than they could be replenished, when the circuit breaker period was announced. To keep a sourdough starter going, it needs to be fed flour, and lots of it. To make bread, you need bread or plain flour.

With time on their hands, Singaporeans kneaded their anxiety away.

Long queues formed at baking supplies chain Phoon Huat. Tempers flared. Customers shouted at staff and at one another. In supermarkets, baking supplies were scarce. There was no instant yeast to be found; no bread, plain or even self-raising flour.

Meanwhile, Phoon Huat and flour miller Prima, were scrambling to get their stocks out there. They had supplies, lots of it, but packaging for retail-friendly quantities was hard to find.

Eventually, they powered through, working round the clock.

Prima invested in a new packaging machine. Phoon Huat was selling instant yeast in 500g tubs. Sheng Siong offered plain flour in 3kg bags. Even Maison Kayser, purveyor of bread and pastries, started selling different kinds of flour.

Everything was snapped up - even those 500g tubs of yeast. Friends would send text messages about yeast and flour sightings in this store or that.

As a result of all that, people can now buy sourdough and other kinds of bread from the growing number of home-based food businesses that sprang up in the wake of the pandemic.

But because of the baking frenzy set alight by the pandemic, many of us can now make our own daily bread.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.