REMEMBER how we used to break those square-shaped crackers in half to dunk in our Kopi O or Milo? And when they had soaked up the drink just right, we’d pop them into our mouths?
You’re probably thinking Hup Seng’s Cream Crackers, and you would be right.
Many share this fond memory of the earlier days, and perhaps it’s a habit that still endures in some. Let’s not forget other old household names like Pill Chi Kit Tech Aun – or Fung Sha pills to you and I, Pun Chun Chicken Biscuits, Ngan Yin (Hand Brand) peanuts, and the 555 brand of pocket notebooks.
These are some of the local brands that Malaysians have been so accustomed to over the years. But how many of us are really aware of their origins, how they came about and who manufactured them? In 2011, the Astro AEC channel created its Made In Malaysia (MIM) programme to shed some light on these nostalgic, if not iconic, brands.
Astro Chinese Customer Business vice president Choo Chi Han and Yellow Pictures founder and film director Wong Kew-Lit took it upon themselves to illuminate the facts surrounding these home-grown brands. Indeed, the series proved to be so popular that there will be a second season next year.
For the past decade, Choo and Wong have been working together to produce various programmes for the local Chinese audience.
“These programmes range from local entertainment to magazine programmes and documentaries. They span a wide range of subjects but mainly focuses on the Malaysian way of life, things that viewers can relate to,” says Choo.
“We produce all these to be more aware of ourselves. The Chinese community in Malaysia is so special, yet we ourselves don’t know much about one another,” he observes.
Together, Choo and Wong have produced about 300 episodes of such shows, including Malaysia, My Home; My New Village Stories; and Stories of SJKC, all of which highlight the lifestyles, cultures, places and educational experiences in the country.
“That was when we thought: How about Malaysian brands?” recalls Choo.
“With this idea, I asked my team to go to the grocery shop and purchase all the products they could remember from their childhood. We laid them all on the table and started figuring out which were local and carried out research to determine if there were good stories behind them,” explains Wong.
“These are products that did not get much media attention,” he adds.
Wong says they considered more than 100 brands before they narrowed the list down. According to Choo, they saw the power of these brands, which had grown from a cottage industry background to become well-known brands.
“For MIM, we selected brands that had been around for 50 years and above,” he says.
The 13-episode programme covered more than 30 brands.
“One of the most prominent is Kwong Wah Yit Poh. Dr Sun Yat Sen founded the daily in 1910; it is the oldest surviving Chinese newspaper in Malaysia,” Choo points out. “There are just so many things we can learn from these businesses, like how success can be achieved despite a small start.”
The programme met with much praise, becoming top five Chinese programmes on Astro.
“People who caught it were surprised by the stories behind the brands. There were very positive responses; people from all over the country had similar memories surrounding the products, and they carried on from one generation to another,” says Choo, adding that they had received requests for a new season.
“Frankly, along the way we encountered many other local products, but since we only had one time slot, we needed to prioritise accordingly,” says Choo.
It’s a good thing then that MIM will see a second season towards the end of the first quarter of 2016.
Currently, Choo and Wong are filming The Successors, which takes a look at the new generation of managers or owners from long-time brands such as Eu Yan Sang, Tomei and Pensonic.
“It is a bit like a spin-off, and we are looking to air it sometime at the end of the year,” says Choo. The programmes have a Sunday 9pm primetime slot on AEC 301 and HD 306. – By KELLY TEY