A Bakery with over 100 Years of History Jiu Zhen Nan Taiwan Pastry／傳承百年餅香的 舊振南餅店
A Bakery with over 100 Years of History
Jiu Zhen Nan Taiwan Pastry
◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi
Jiu Zhen Nan Taiwan Pastry is a bakery that specializes in handmade Chinese-style baked goods. In the 125 years since its founding, it has never veered from tradition, sticking to what they know and do best. If each bakery has just one signature pastry, for Jiu Zhen Nan it would be their traditional wedding pastry. Many couples, when they get engaged, order wedding pastries at Jiu Zhen Nan and send them out to friends and relatives along with their engagement announcement. Traditional Chinese-style pastries are not only a treat but also part of Taiwan's culture. Because of the pastries it bakes for holidays and ceremonial occasions, Jiu Zhen Nan has itself became a warm memory shared by generations of Kaohsiung's people, a cultural heritage in its own right.
The bakery is now managed by fourth-generation owner Mr. Li Shiung-ching. He said the only reason Jiu Zhen Nan has been able to prosper for over a century is because of its persistent adherence to "principles." When Mr. Li took over 17 years ago, Jiu Zhen Nan was already more than 100 years old. The history it had witnessed and the stories it had seen over the years had already entered the realm of legends. For Mr. Li, an old-fashioned Chinese bakery is a way of life. Moon cakes are prepared for Mid-Autumn Festival; at the end of each lunar year, malt candy is popular, to sweeten the lips and thus the words of the Kitchen Stove God as he reports back to the Heavenly Court - hence the saying "welcome a sweet New Year with sweets in your mouth." Chinese-style pastries are thus an indispensable part of local culture. The challenge is attracting customer on regular days, not just holidays and festivals.
Mr. Li gave up a career in construction when he decided to take over the family business. It may seem like he changed tack, but in fact he grew up watching his maternal grandfather making these pastries. The pastry kitchen was part of his childhood and he was no stranger to the steps and processes involved. The first executive decision he made upon taking over was to roll up his sleeves and work at each and every station in the bakery, including the factory kitchen. He said many of the old chefs have spent their whole lives in this kitchen, and when they retired they lost the focus of their lives. Mr. Li decided to hire them back, recasting them as R&D specialists. Mr. Li says that one time he came to the factory just after 7:00am, and an old chef was already by the door, unable to wait to start work. He says it is the sense of belonging, a sense of family, that has kept Jiu Zhen Nan going. While it is important to pass down techniques and knowledge, the most valuable asset is the trust and love that people have for one another. Using constant communication, Mr. Li has been able to establish a business culture in which everyone does their best, and does what they should do well.
Another element allowing this century-old bakery to stay on top is to constantly reinvent itself. While Jiu Zhen Nan still produces most products by hand, the bakery has established standard procedures which help elevate and sustain product quality. Their philosophy is to preserve traditional flavors and never change recipes, while bolstering quality by using the best ingredients, at the same time making adjustments to accommodate modern consumers' dietary preferences.
In terms of marketing, Jiu Zhen Nan has bravely branched out from its traditional image. Combining packaging design, fashionable new images and budget-friendly pricing, the bakery has retained its market share. Moreover, it has adopted a modern operational model by entering department stores, supermarkets, train station souvenir stores, airport duty-free shops, as well as internet sales channels. What is more, it has partnered with "Asia Miles" to reach customers difficult to approach through traditional marketing methods.
Under Mr. Li's leadership, Jiu Zhen Nan has grown steadily for 17 years in a row. In 2013, Jiu Zhen Nan sold one million mung bean pastries, and five million pineapple shortbreads. In 2014, Jiu Zhen Nan opened a Hong Kong branch, aiming to introduce this premium brand to people in Hong Kong, with a hope of becoming one of the most recognized flavors representing the taste of Asia.
To Mr. Li, sales records are not the most important thing. His most sincere hope is that when a customer receives Jiu Zhen Nan's product, they open it and eat it, rather than trying to re-gift it to someone else. For over a century, the billboard at Jiu Zhen Nan's door has shone with pride. Propelled by support and trust from its customers, Jiu Zhen Nan is now striding into its second century.
| Jiu Zhen Nan Taiwan Pastry
No.84, Jhongjheng 4th Rd., Kaohsiung City