From Traditional To Trendsetting: A Look At Singapore’s Mooncake Scene in 2023
Mooncakes might be an ancient, iconic delicacy, but that doesn’t exempt them from a bit of inventiveness. Every year, we come across flavours that we haven’t seen before – popping candy, orh nee with matcha, and bird’s nest are just some of the more unique varieties that we’ve seen in recent weeks.
And I don’t know about you, but whenever I attend a Mid-Autumn Festival party, I feel compelled to bring something other than the usual salted egg yolk and lotus paste mooncake – goodness knows my hosts have more of those than they can eat. So in a bid to find out more about the mooncake scene this year, we interviewed three industry experts to find out what’s been stealing the spotlight lately.
PHOTO: CONRAD SINGAPORE ORCHARD
What are the most popular mooncake flavours in Singapore this year?
Oscar Postma, Cluster Operations General Manager at Conrad Singapore Orchard, says: “In Singapore this year, we've observed a growing trend toward innovative mooncake flavours that blend traditional and contemporary elements. While traditional flavours like lotus seed paste or red bean paste remain timeless favourites, some unique combinations are stealing the spotlight.”
“Notably, our Mao Shan Wang Durian snowskin mooncake remains a perennial favourite, and we’ve seen a surge in popularity for mooncakes offering assorted nuts, exemplified by our Parma Ham and Pork Floss with Assorted Nuts Mooncake.”
Meanwhile, Nigel Tan, Assistant Director of F&B at the Capitol Kempinski Hotel, says there’s still an appetite for the tried-and-tested. “Many are experimenting with more creative snowskin flavours, which usually allow more room for one to be innovative with. Traditional baked mooncakes, such however, tend to still be the go-to choice, especially when it comes to gifting.”
PHOTO: THE CAPITOL KEMPINSKI HOTEL
What are some new and innovative ingredients or flavours that have either lately emerged in the market, or that you’re feeling particularly excited about?
“One particularly exciting trend is experiential mooncake gifts, such as food and drink pairings,” says Oscar, citing a boxed set that pairs a mooncake collection with a bottled cocktail.
(From experience, we can tell you that there's nothing like a bit of whisky to cut through the overwhelming sweetness of a traditional mooncake! And for the non-drinkers, a mug of black coffee pairs nicely with one-fourth of a mooncake for breakfast.)
IMAGE: JU SIGNATURES
Are there any particular mooncake flavours or trends that are popular with different age groups or demographics? Which mooncakes have Gen Z been going for?
“A mooncake trend that has been popular are mooncakes with low-sugar, healthy or organic ingredients, as well as with superfoods that are high in antioxidants,” says Nigel.
Oscar echoed similar sentiments, saying that younger consumers are generally more open to adventurous fillings.
“Mooncakes with contemporary flavours and unique combinations tend to attract younger consumers, including Gen Z,” he says. “They are more likely to explore and appreciate mooncakes that break away from traditional boundaries. Innovative flavours like the ones mentioned earlier, or those with a gin infusion, are likely to resonate with the adventurous palates of younger generations. However, traditional flavours remain timeless and appeal to a broader demographic.”
Colin, a manager at Cantonese restaurant, JU Signatures, says that even amongst the younger crowd, there’s a growing demand for traditional flavours and techniques, and their mooncake maestro, Chef Wong Kok Shyoung has a passion for showcasing the humble Teochew Mooncake.
“Many prefer handcrafted, authentic mooncakes, instead of the mass produced ones. Costs have increased, but Chef Wong understands the value of the premium ingredients, and wants to continue to use these (such as the yams with import from overseas) as he is unwilling to compromise on quality, yet maintain affordability. Teochew mooncakes seem like a lost art, but we want to continue to share this delicacy with everyone.”
Given the recent news about mooncakes being recalled over toxins and food poisoning-related bacteria, we can hardly blame him.
IMAGES: MDM LING BAKERY, MY MUM'S COOKIES
Mooncake packaging is a big part of the draw and also a big part of the expense for customers! Can you tell us a bit about the packaging trends that you’ve noticed?
"Packaging is important in first, telling the story of the brand, and second, being one of the deciding factors in the purchase cycle,” Nigel says. In other words, given the choice between two traditional mooncakes, we'd be likely choose the one in the prettier box.
He adds: “A packaging trend that we observe is that consumers are getting more interested in how boxes or packaging can be reused after the Mid-Autumn Festival.”
“Mooncake packaging has indeed evolved into an art form, and we've observed a growing trend towards elegant and eco-conscious packaging,” Oscar agrees. “To enhance sustainability and versatility, we've made sure that our mooncake boxes can be repurposed. These elegantly crafted boxes can find new life as jewellery storage boxes or for storing other cherished items, adding an extra layer of value and thoughtfulness to the gifting experience.”
Not wrong - we've seen these being used to store everything from sewing supplies to surgical masks. So if you're wondering how a pair of mooncakes can cost $80, now you know - you're paying not only for the premium ingredients, but for the reusable packaging. Think of it as paying $80 for a jewellery box that comes with two snacks. Girl math, anyone?