Print your selfie and eat, or drink, it

Food outlets are cashing in on the selfie era by offering to print customers' selfies and photos on products such as cakes, drinks, CashCards and tattoos

Printing photos on mugs, T-shirts and jigsaws is not new, but have you heard of a selfie cake or selfie coffee?

In recent years, the range of objects on which you can plaster images of your face has expanded to include novelty ones, including those that are edible.

In Singapore, several bakeries offer the service of printing colour photos onto buttercream or fondant. They include Ugly Cake Shop, Polar Puffs & Cakes, Prima Deli and The Cake Shop.

The Cake Shop, which has outlets at Liang Court and JCube, gets between five and 10 orders for selfie cakes on weekdays and, on weekends, the number can go up to 40 orders a day.

"It started with a few requests, but by word of mouth, such cakes started to get popular with our regulars and their friends," says general manager Rebecca Er, 36.

The Cake Shop edits photos according to customers' specifications. "We have a team of designers who work daily on editing and touching up customised photos for our clients' orders," she adds.

Prices for a nine-inch photo cake at The Cake Shop start at $62.90, including basic editing, and vary according to the complexity of the customisation requests. For instance, a request to put two selfies together requires an additional fee.

Financial services consultant Jeffery Khoo with an iced milk tea from #Selfie Coffee topped with the image of his face.
A photo cake from The Cake Shop. PHOTO: THE CAKE SHOP

Legal professional Sim Rui Ying, 28, has been a regular customer of The Cake Shop for the past year.

It has become a tradition among her group of six friends to have photo cakes on each of their birthdays. For a recent hen night, she ordered a cake with her own and her friends' images on it. "We joked about whether we were going to eat ourselves or the person we hated the most," she says.

Besides cake, one can also put one's face on a cup of coffee or tea. The #Selfie Coffee cafe, which opened in Haji Lane two years ago, gets about 125 customers a day during peak periods, mainly on weekends. Here, a machine prints customers' photos onto the whipped cream that tops each drink, using vegetable oil to render the images in colour. Prices for an iced selfie coffee start at $8.50.

When Mr Eddy Chan, 47, opened the cafe, he was confident that the unexpected combination of selfies and coffee would make his product unique. "When you put a selfie on a coffee, it's like saying, 'This coffee is mine.' It's a one and only," he says.

Besides cakes and coffees, many products are being offered with the option of personalisation with customers' photos.

For instance, The Singapore Mint allows customers to print their photos onto CashCards for $20.

Those who want to turn their selfies into temporary tattoos can do so at local business Touch & Print at Sunshine Plaza. An A4-sized sheet costs $30.

British online retailer Firebox gives customers the option of having their faces printed on suitcase covers, car rear-view mirror air fresheners, giant cushions, Y-front underwear and even balaclava-like stretchy masks.

Now that selfie-taking is so prevalent, says Mr Sam Han, an assistant professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University's School of Social Sciences, it is no surprise that businesses are experimenting with ways to capitalise on it.

"There are many ways in which companies leverage on a certain set of emotions that people have. I see this as a commercialisation of selfie-taking," he says.

But in future, when selfies become even more common, it will be more difficult for businesses to cash in on the novelty, he adds.

"Everyone takes selfies, even elderly people. It's not, 'Oh, that's what young people are doing.' It's what everyone is doing. When something becomes that mass, it's not so easy for people to make money off it."

And it is not necessarily true that people simply like seeing their faces on things. "It is a means of access to a larger conversation," Mr Han says. Whether this conversation-starter is about marketing oneself, the punchline of a joke or simply to mark a moment in time is up to the individual.

At #Selfie Coffee, customer Jeffery Khoo, 43, is fascinated by his iced milk tea topped with the image of his smiling face.

"It's something different," says the financial services consultant. "You get to see yourself in your drink before you drink it. "

Only after taking several photos of his selfie drink did he tentatively poke a straw into the image of himself.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Face it, selfie products are hot'. Print Edition | Subscribe