As the eldest son of a Teochew family, Tan Soo Pong always knew he would be the heir to the Kim Hing Group, the company his father started that specialises in Chinese delicacies. Since the ’60s, Kim Hing has focused on bird’s nest. In 1986, it developed the world’s first glass- bottled bird’s nest — sealed by vacuum technology and sterilised by heat treatment — under Dragon Brand Bird’s Nest.
Like his father, Tan’s eldest son Lawrence has also been trained to take over and push the business further. At 16, he started working as a part-time management trainee at Dragon Brand and joined Kim Hing after completing his business management degree in 2004. Since 2013, upon being appointed group general manager in Singapore, he’s been steering his team towards expanding the business into other products like abalone as well as bottling and retort food packaging for OEM customers.
How have you built on the company’s past success?
Lawrence In 2006, I introduced a mini bird’s nest bar concept. It was like a bird’s nest sommelier where you get to sample bird’s nest to understand the difference in tastes and aroma; this helped increase appreciation for bird’s nest. Then, in 2011, my father launched the savoury Royal Braised Bird’s Nest as an alternative to shark’s fin, which is served in fine Chinese restaurants and at events. We built on these successes with a luxury programme in 2013, with services such as tasting of bespoke bird’s nest, followed by a luxury boutique at Marina Bay Sands in 2017 selling top grade bird’s nest starting at $6,000 per kg. In the middle of 2020, we will open a flagship boutique in Resorts World Sentosa, with concierge and bespoke services for VVIP customers who spend $200,000 or more a year.
Tell us about your efforts to diversify the business.
Soo Pong My father Tan Kim Pheow started diversifying in the ’80s through our holding company Kim Hing Investments with food-related businesses, such as a food distribution company and a chocolate manufacturer. We are now looking into food and beverage businesses. For a start, we will bring back our Dragon Brand Dessert concept through a joint venture with a local dim sum restaurant and online delivery platforms. You can expect desserts like mango sago pomelo with bird’s nest, coconut milk with bird’s nest and even durian mousse with bird’s nest.
Soo Pong Lawrence plans to turn Singapore into a major bird’s nest trading hub using AI and blockchain technology. He’s put together a team to authenticate and ensure consistent quality in the supply chain of edible bird’s nest from Southeast Asia, as a non-profit initiative to increase consumer confidence.
This story first appeared in the December 2019 issue of A.