Keeping the city sweet!

Keeping the city sweet!

An online shop is helping to keep Hong Kong's traditional snacks from dying out


Sweet talkers: John Pang Kai-ming (left) and Marco Au Chun-yuen set up their own internet business.
Sweet talkers: John Pang Kai-ming (left) and Marco Au Chun-yuen set up their own internet business.
Photo: K.Y. Cheng/SCMP
Hong Kong has a reputation as a shopping paradise. But stores selling traditional Hong Kong snacks, such as ding ding sweets and preserved fruits, are closing. Brand names are taking over. The local culture is at risk.

John Pang Kai-ming and Marco Au Chun-yuen are two 23-year-old business graduates from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Worried that the local flavour of Hong Kong is being lost, they opened their own snack shop - Lingsik King.

"I grew up in Sham Shui Po, where you can still see a lot of the old Hong Kong. The traditional snacks need to be saved," Au says.

With snack stores being pushed out by supermarket chains and high rent, Pang and Au decided to set up their snack business online.

"We invited sweet stores to put their traditional snacks on sale on our website," Au says. "At first, they were a little sceptical about doing business online. Selling through the internet can be hard for elderly people to understand. They are used to trading face to face.

"But more and more shops are willing to work with us because they see the sales figures are growing."

A customer can log on to Lingsik King's website, place an order and have their snacks delivered to their home or office within 24 hours.

"I am not sure if this type of operation is one of a kind, but I think most Hongkongers get their snacks from supermarkets. We've discovered that online selling is a huge market," says Pang.

Not everyone can get to the supermarket, though."If you don't have time to shop for snacks, we can help you," says Au.

"Office workers can enjoy snacks at their desks just by making a few clicks on the computer. There are also many clients who order snacks as a gift. Receiving a snack pack from a friend is really comforting, especially for those who have been stuck all day in the office."

Lingsik King is also developing its own brand.

"Our relationship with the snack stores is mutual. We order traditional snacks from manufacturers, package them in Lingsik King wrappers and sell them in shops. We make use of each other's platforms to keep our businesses profitable," says Au.

Besides local snacks, Lingsik King offers a wide range of Korean and Japanese treats that are not on sale in supermarkets.

"The success of the 759 Store inspires us. Building a chain store empire like that is not what we have in mind, but its success story showed us that selling snacks is big business," says Pang.

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