Ushering in CNY with cookies

Bitou.kch CNY gift set

BY JACINTHA JOLENE

We are just a few days away from celebrating Chinese New Year which falls on Feb 1 this year and, of course, the celebration will not be completed without food. Snacks, cookies, and candies play a significant role during the festive season.

Bakers and home-based sellers alike have been busy taking up orders the past few weeks as customers are set on getting their hands on the goodies before they get sold out.

Pineapple jam tarts are very synonymous with the Chinese New Year celebration and are often served during the festive season. The word pineapple means “ong lai” in the Hokkien dialect and the term sounds similar to “prosperity has arrived.” According to the Chinese culture, peanut cookies are also served during the celebration as it symbolises good health and longevity.

Bitou.kch Founder, Sylvia

Home-based baker Sylvia, who founded Bitou.Kch, upped her cookie game by baking and selling healthy cookies. The three distinct flavours are double chocolate chip almond, matcha chocolate chip almond and salted caramel butter.

Sylvia admitted that as cliché as it sounds, the Bitou homebaker team got inspired during last year’s movement control order (MCO) time when everyone stayed at home and worked from home.

“We wanted to have some healthy snacks to munch on so we started to bake our own version of cookies out of interest.

“Eventually things worked out well and we decided to share our healthy cookies with friends and family, and the rest of the story follows,” she told New Sarawak Tribune.

When asked about their best selling product, salted caramel butter is the crowd’s favourite.

“Nowadays, our customers are well aware of healthy lifestyle and healthy diet, hence this healthy eating trend inspires us to adjust our recipes to a healthier version and back to the basics of baking cookies, with nothing too fancy.

“Besides, we also advocate for sustainable packaging, and reduce plastic wrapper usage. Hence all our packaging is reusable,” she stated.

From sorting out durable and reusable container jars to self-designed labels and message hang tags, Sylvia always urged customers to reuse and recycle to help reduce carbon footprint and save Mother Earth.

In conjunction with the festive season, Sylvia also collaborated with a local talent @patchandsew.kuching on Instagram to produce a unique and traditional gift set.

The set consists of one jar of salted caramel butter cookies and one jar of cranberry lemon butter cookies. The cookies are then packed in a handmade pouch with an ang pau packet included.

Bitou.kch’s main platform for selling is Instagram, so Sylvia would entertain her customers’ queries while any transactions made will be via that account.

Having recently started in October 2021, Sylvia managed to maintain the price of her goods up till this day.

“But of course, we will have no choice but to make necessary adjustments accordingly in the future if the cost of raw materials are to increase drastically,” she said.

According to Sylvia, sales for homemade CNY cookies have been quite optimistic as customers are more keen to try on homemade cookies and other CNY snacks.

“We believe in quality over quantity. Other than the traditional gift hampers, cookies are definitely gaining popularity recently as gift sets during festive seasons as they are quite affordable and presentable,” she enthused.

All cookies are freshly baked upon order to guarantee its quality and not to over-produce.

Maziah, sales assistant holding best-selling cookie

However, the situation is different for Maziah, a sales assistant for a bakery in an area not far from the city centre here.

It can be observed that the business has been slow at the bakery even with the tents perched outside the main building to promote the festive goodies. Many cakes and cookies are still left unsold on the table.

According to Maziah, the bakery is selling 21 varieties of layered cakes and eight types of cookies for Chinese New Year.

“The layered cakes also come in different sizes. The smaller ones are sold at a price range of RM20 to RM28, while the bigger cakes are sold at RM40 to RM56,” she said.

Almond walnut layered cake, blueberry layered cake, cheese layered cake and many others are being sold, just to name a few.

“Cookies are all sold at RM28 per jar and, of course, we will not miss out on pineapple tarts, spices biscuit, makmur red yeast, cornflakes, croquan, German cranberry and original and also peanut cookies.”

When asked about which items sold out the most, Maziah replied spices biscuit are selling like hot cakes.

“Because customers like the spicy yet savory taste of the biscuit and it is also packed in a ziplock bag, which is more convenient and cheaper than buying in a jar,” she said.

Maziah also said that there is indeed a hike in the price of items sold because the cost of raw materials alone is pricey.

“All raw materials needed to bake these (cakes and cookies) are all expensive, given the economy now is really bad.

“Suppliers are also charging us high fees, hence we have to increase the price of the products as well to adjust to the current situation,” she sighed.

Sitting under the tent on a sunny Thursday afternoon, Maziah noted that the business scene has been slow and not so hectic as compared to the previous years.

“I understand that we are now living in the pandemic, but before, people would still come and buy.

“Now, there are less and less customers buying because they are spoiled with choices and it creates a competition between us (bakeries) and home based sellers which can be very overwhelming for customers,” she added.

Layered cakes

Comparing last year’s sale to this year, Maziah said that there were at least many customers coming and buying Chinese New Year goodies.

“But now, with all restrictions being lifted, I think customers do not buy a lot because they want to celebrate moderately or even spend this festive season by going on a holiday and forgo the celebration.

“I would also like to add that with the current price hike, it affects the decision of customers to buy the products,” Maziah stated.

To some, cookies and cakes may not be seen as a necessity but it is what makes Chinese New Year celebration more delightful. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish a very Happy Chinese New Year to those who celebrate.

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