A mesh of Chinese words — “kekou” which means “tasty” and “kuaile” which means “happy” — homegrown pineapple tart brand KELE always strives to bring people together through happiness and its sumptuous confectionery.
The story behind KELE dates all the way back to 1983, to a small family confectionary based in Jurong West that served a selection of traditional goodies as well as the brand’s signature pineapple tarts.
Previously called Kele Confectionery, the bakery was run by Adrian and Gordon Ang’s parents. The Ang family had perfected their pineapple tart recipe by collaborating with a specialised chef back in the 80s.
Fast forward to 2012, Adrian, has stepped up to take over the family business after completing his Master’s Degree in the United States, where he started to build the company’s vision to become the “Singapore brand for pineapple tarts”.
Seeing potential in the F&B space at the time, the 46-year-old decided to rebrand the company to KELE and scale up the business’ operations beyond the confectionary housed in Jurong.
Not too long later, he was joined by his younger brother in 2015. Gordon, now 40, left the fitness industry after more than a decade to spearhead the rebranding as well as build KELE’s retail operations.
Putting a fresh spin on a traditional brand
Commenting on the rebranding, Gordon said that the process was no easy feat.
Setting their sights on an islandwide expansion meant that the company had to create a distinct identity for Singaporeans to easily identify the brand and stand out from other confectionaries.
This was why the brothers moved away from using the typical plastic containers with red caps that are commonly used by bakeries. Instead, they invested in designing new, modern packaging to appeal to a younger demographic.
In addition, the brothers also turned to various digital platforms to market its products. “This is to facilitate the e-commerce boom and to expand our brand exposure,” explained Gordon.
KELE’s digital shift was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the company decided to ramp up its online presence due to the negative impact of Singapore’s circuit breaker on its physical retail locations.
We understand the importance of keeping up with the current trends, such as leaning towards technological innovations, to ensure the business copes with the fast paced demand in today’s market.
– Gordon Ang, Director of Sales and Marketing, KELE
Besides increasing KELE’s online reach, the brothers also wanted to challenge the societal norm on purchasing and gifting pineapple tarts in Singapore. Served as a traditional snack during Chinese New Year (CNY), pineapple tarts are most sought after and gifted only during the festive period.
On that account, KELE wants to remind its customers that pineapples symbolise prosperity and should not be tied only to CNY. “These [pineapple tarts] should be enjoyed and gifted all year long,” said Gordon.
Under international spotlight
The brothers’ hard work paid off when they saw an exponential increase in sales, especially during the festive period.
Having successfully opened three outlets since its rebrand — in Takashimaya, VivoCity and Chinatown — KELE has come far as a confectionary brand and achieved multiple milestones throughout its journey.
Some of its most prominent milestones include being featured in Michelin Guide 2017 and awarded the Made with Passion badge in 2021. The brand has also been featured multiple times as a must-visit in Singapore on international media websites, accumulating interest on a global scale.
Among its foreign fans, KELE’s Jade Pineapple Balls are extremely popular due to its distinctive pandan flavour, which is unique to Southeast Asia. Meanwhile in Singapore, its Traditional Pineapple Tarts and Golden Pineapple Balls take the crown.
Despite the popularity of its traditional pineapple tarts, KELE continually innovates new flavours and incorporates new bakes into their product lineup every year to stay relevant among Singaporeans as their tastebuds evolve.
KELE also makes an effort to leverage brand partnerships to increase their reach in the Singaporean market.
For this year’s CNY, KELE has partnered with New Moon to come up with the Ke Le Reunion Yu Sheng Set, to celebrate the return of proper reunion gatherings since the pandemic and to commemorate KELE’s 40th anniversary.
Aside from its Yu Sheng set, it also launched limited edition Golden Osmanthus Pineapple Tarts which are infused with Gryphon Tea Company’s artisanal tea blends.
Eyeing overseas expansion
While KELE has seen tremendous growth since its rebrand, Gordon shared the company is taking a step back this year to “take another look at [its] business operations, in hopes of coming back bigger and stronger next year”.
Commenting on the F&B industry in Singapore, he added that although it may not seem to be as lucrative as the IT or engineering sectors, KELE wants to boost talent attraction in the industry and realise the dream of globalising Singapore’s food culture and heritage further.
Hence, the company is seeking to expand to international markets.
We want to be the leading Singapore pastry souvenir brand so that people from all over the world will
know that Peranakan Pineapple Tarts is an intangible part of Singapore’s culture and heritage.
– Gordon Ang, Director of Sales and Marketing, KELE
Featured Image Credit: KELE