I didn’t like Honey Creme.
It’s not because I knew from the start that it was Taiwanese or anything. Rather, it was simply a matter of the hype not meeting expectations. We heard about it even before it touched down on Singaporean soil: a nationwide phenomenon from ostensibly one of the most popular culture influential nations in modern time. The players weren’t here – preoccupied by the ongoing fad sweeping across the Korean peninsula. Never mind, a Taiwanese company exploited their absence, and we were grateful, or so we thought we were.
However, when we finally sampled it, we marveled at our naiviety – submitting to snaking lines, lapping up every flavor every chance we got. We forgave it, we didn’t understand it: if this was what was so popular in Seoul, we could only surmise that perhaps the Koreans never had ice cream before. But for Singaporeans, Honey Creme’s “Korean-style soft serve” tasted no different than the much cheaper soft serve sundaes already available at McDonald’s and Burger King.
Still, I wanted to try Milkcow. “This couldn’t be it”, I surmised. Koreans, who’ve exploited the golden ratio to manufacture some of the most aesthetically perfect looking celebrities. Koreans, who’ve honed pop music to an exact science to deliver infectious beats loved by people world over. Surely, Honey Creme’s soft serve couldn’t be “it”, right?
So, after my dinner at Tung Lok Xi He Peking Duck with Titus, I suggested that we visit Milkcow just a few blocks down. My friend, to be sure, was not entirely cooperative. A classic accountant, he championed productivity and results, and “queuing” based on nothing besides “hype”, was not music to his years. Still, he grudgingly accompanied me regardless, because I have – on the rare occassion – demonstrated that despite my bumbling no confidence, that I know something good when I call it. But I’d say he only turned around after we spotted that exceedingly charming GQ Magazine picture perfect celebrity from The Sam Willows.
While Korea has been all too willingly to milk My Love From Another Star’s Kim Soo-Hyun, tapping on the star’s popularity in China – endorsing more than 50 brands ranging from KFC to Semir, Korean brands appear to have a different strategy for Singapore. They often appear somewhat hesitant, slow even, almost intentionally unwilling to be “first-movers” in their brand strategy here. And while this lack of enthusiasm is prevalent across every sector, this plan of action is most distinct in F&B.
Seoul Garden incubated a whole generation to the concept of bulgogi and Korean barbecue almost two decades before the first Korean migrants set up shop here. With the exception of Nolboo Hangari, the barbecue chains from Korea are still not here yet. The Korea-based chicken players have been quicker, but they still gave Four Fingers a five year headstart. It would appear, that despite the successful strategy applied elsewhere, Korean brands are deliberately distancing themselves from the hype. The food bubbles here are so volatile, going on “hype” is simply not financially viable. They’re here for the long-haul, and they want to progress on their own terms, and Milkcow appears to be no exception.
In line with the “well-being” philosophy to life in Korea, Milkcow touts its star products as organic and of premium quality. They say their milk is entirely organic, sourced from Italian dairy farms. Ingredients, such as the honeycombs and nuts, are organic as well. It’s all very exciting, and is great marketing for the consumer, except we know that firstly, there is no discernible nutritional difference between organic and off-the-shelf milk. And secondly, we know that one of the soft-serve players in Korea don’t actually use organic ingredients despite marketing claims that it is. So, forget about the health gibberish while we debate the important question: is it good?
From the first spoon, Milkcow beats Honey Creme hands down. Everything, apparently, was just better whether one looked at the smoothness, milkiness or taste, Milkcow was better. Sure, the sundae is not as photogenic as Honey Creme, but who cares, really, I mean, really. And at SGD 5.90 for the Organic Natural Honeycomb, it was a lot cheaper too.
Would I queue in long lines for Milkcow? No, not really, but the thing is, nobody needs to, so let’s keep it that way, alright?