Besides the usual suspects including TWG and Charles & Keith who have made us proud by putting our little red dot on the global map, there are plenty of local brands that have achieved similar international acclaim. From old-school necessities like Tiger Balm to newbies like The Golden Duck Co, we shine a light on brands with local roots that are now making waves globally.
Established in 1924
Known for: pain-relieving ointment that balances age-old tradition with modern innovations.
Unscrew the signature hexagon jar and the strong aroma of menthol and camphor tickles your nose within seconds. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that Tiger Balm is an effective solution to alleviate all kinds of pains and aches. You can even use it to clear a blocked nose or to ease the itch of a mosquito bite. Used by everyone from grandparents to young athletes and celebrities – we hear that Lady Gaga is a fan – Tiger Balm is a concoction of essential oils blended with paraffin petrolatum to keep the mixture in a semi-solid at room temperature.
Tiger Balm’s history can be traced back to 19th-century China. Aw Chu Kin was a Chinese herbalist who left for Rangoon in the late 1800s to sell his special ointment. Upon his death in 1908, the business was left to his two sons Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par who then took it to Singapore as Haw Par Corporation Limited.
Tiger Balm has reached global status and even expanded its line of products with Tiger Balm Active, a range of sports-focused creams. There are also mosquito repellent patches and rubs for muscles strained from using the smartphone.
DID YOU KNOW
The eccentric Haw Par Villa park is the creation of Aw Boon Haw. First opened in 1937 as Tiger Balm Gardens, it features bright, gaudycoloured statues and tableaux that depict scenes from Chinese history and mythology – stories that the Aw brothers grew up with.
Established in 1932
Known for: pale lager brewed in the tropics
No stranger to local beer drinkers and hell raisers, Tiger Beer’s full-bodied lager is no easy feat. It takes about 500 hours to complete and is done using a unique lagering process. “We first set out to brew beer in a tropical climate, while working to keep the natural ingredients fresh and quality uncompromised,” shares Venus Teoh, Director of International Brands Tiger at Heineken Asia Pacific. The tiger has also crawled out of the concrete jungle, making a name for itself in over 75 countries.
Don’t expect your regular beer garden at Tiger Street Lab at Jewel Changi Airport or Tiger Street Den at Dubai Airport. “Visitors can experience local Tiger Beer brews, food, designs and discover other local talents. We have created experiences that represent a Singapore that locals can be proud of on an international stage,” says Venus on Tiger’s new concept stores.
There are also the limited edition Tiger District Bottles where there 20 different labels are emblazoned with iconic landmarks from various local districts. Pick yours up at your preferred supermarket, online retailer or bar.
DID YOU KNOW
While other beers can take months to reach Singapore, a fresh brew of Tiger is an hour away at Tuas. You can book a guided tour of the brewery, which costs $18 on weekdays and $20 on weekends for adults and $12 for kids. The sessions run in the afternoon and last for an hour.
Established in 1933 & 2009
Known for: artisanal perfumes and essential oils sourced from around the world.
Step into Sifr Aromatics and it comes to life in a heady riot of fragrance and colour, thanks to shelves of gorgeously designed bottles of perfume. Set up by Johari Kazura in 2009, the shop is an offshoot of his family business, Jamal Kazura Aromatics, which started simply as Kazura in 1933 by his grandfather Hanifa Kazura. Both shops reside within the Kampong Glam enclave and are popular with tourists visiting the area.
Far from your ordinary perfumery, both offer a unique, customised approach. Let Kazura introduce you to a range of ingredients. Expect a mix of natural and synthetic potions to give a wellrounded scent. A combination of five or more oils are then mixed, shaken and bottled in 12-millilitre vials. Sifr has been featured on Lonely Planet and Conde Nast Traveler has called it “one of the finest custom perfumers in Southeast Asia”.
Beyond the handmade products his grandfather sold such as candles, salves and balms, the younger Kazura experiments with organic butters and exotic oils like argan to create more innovative products for his customers.
DID YOU KNOW
‘Sifr’ is the Arabic word for ‘zero’, which to Johari Kazura signifies new beginnings.
Jamal Kazura Aromatics is located at 728 North Bridge Rd, Sifr Aromatics is located at 42 Arab St.
Established in 1959
Known for: hand-brewed soya sauce entirely made from non-GMO soya beans.
“Nanyang Sauce was named after Old Singapore in gratitude of the new life my grandfather found here,” says Ken Koh, a third-gen member of the family business, on the story behind the name.
Tan Tiong How came to Singapore from China in the 40s. To remind him of home, he flavoured his food with his family’s signature soya sauce. He then started pedalling glass bottles of the stuff around town, knocking from door-to-door.
The thick, dark condiment is a kitchen staple in Singapore, playing a key role in local dishes like chicken rice, char kway teow and more. It has multiple layers of flavours including sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami, and make everything it’s cooked with taste better.
What makes it special? “One generation after another, we have been brewing fermented soya sauce the old school way – brewing it for nine months! We rely on the artisanal method of natural fermentation, using 100 percent nonGMO beans from Canada – all without chemical hydrolysis and MSG,” says Ken.
Thanks to the abundance of sunlight spanning 365 days, the island makes for a great setting to ferment soya beans. “Naturally fermented soya sauce works best at a temperature between 30 to 35 degrees,” explains Ken – sure sounds like Singapore and soya sauce are a match made in heaven to us.
Nanyang Sauce runs five types of workshops as part of its sauce academy. It doesn’t stop there either. “We plan to make the brand international, selling bottles in Australia and the United States in the next few years,” spills Ken.
DID YOU KNOW
The iconic swan and abacus brands of soya sauce that dominated market shelves years ago belong to Nanyang Sauce. “We still get customers who are surprised to learn that we are still around when they notice the logos in-store.”
Established in 1994
Known for: Luxury resorts, wellness spas and golf courses
In the olden days, a Banyan tree provided shelter to weary travellers. Now, it’s synonymous with a luxury hotel brand that has eco-friendly resorts in exotic destinations all around the globe. From humble beginnings, Banyan Tree Holdings now manages more than 40 resorts and hotels, 60 spas, 70 retail galleries, and three championship golf courses in 28 countries.
The Singapore-based brand is opening 10 new hotels in 2020, including Angsana Corfu in Greece and Banyan Tree Krabi. It’s making properties more sustainable, looking at decarbonisation and going plastic free. “Sustainability is a mindset that’s been a part of our organisational DNA from the beginning.” shares Vice President Ho Ren Yung.
The most exciting opening, however, is Banyan Tree Mandai, the company’s first resort on home ground. Opening in 2023, the hotel features 338 rooms spanning across 4.6 hectares on the north-east end of Mandai. This includes elevated cabins, and 24 treehouses shaped like seed-pods nestled among trees.
DID YOU KNOW
Banyan Tree’s founder, Ho Kwon Ping, is an accidental hotelier. On a holiday in Phuket, he and his wife Claire Chiang chanced upon a vast expanse of coastal land in Bang Tao Bay. With no prior experience in the hospitality industry, they turned the former tin-mining site into the very first eco-friendly Banyan Tree Resort. The rest, as they say, is history.
Established in 2015
Known for: salted egg yolk snacks that you can easily pick up from a convenience store
Back when the salted egg yolk hype train showed no signs of slowing down, The Golden Duck launched its signature salted egg potato crisp snack, followed by its gourmet salted egg fish skin. In 2016, it took what quickly became a local favourite snack and brought it to the Philippines. It’s now in over 20 markets across Asia, Europe and the United States. “We went from selling 50 packets a day to over 25,000 packs a week in Singapore alone,” shares Jonathan Shen, one of the founders of The Golden Duck.
But his partner, Chris Hwang, tells us that The Golden Duck never intended to be just another salted egg snack company. “We set out with the same vision from day one: to be a leader in the gourmet snacks space, crafting the most complex, dishaccurate snacks in the market. We’re not afraid to push the limits of what a snack can be.”
The Golden Duck’s Sichuan Mala Hot Pot capitalises on Singapore’s love for all things spicy. It’s a fiery snack of beancurd skin, mushrooms and fish skin. It even designed a mala-themed online game called Mala Chase.
DID YOU KNOW
Founders Jonathan and Chris were 25 and 24-years-young when they founded The Golden Duck.
Established in 1981
Known for: consumer electronics includin sound cards, speakers, amps and headphones.
Founded by Sim Wong Hoo and Ng Kai Wa who were schoolmates at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Creative Technology is now a global technology company with offices in Silicon Valley, Dublin, Tokyo and Shanghai. But its head office is on home ground over at Jurong East.
You’ve definitely owned a Creative product in your lifetime. In the early Noughties, it launched portable media players like ZEN and MuVo a couple of years before Apple introduced the iPod. And if you took Mandarin in school, the electronic Chinese dictionary allowed during the O-Level exam is made by Creative. After all, the company’s first product was a multilingual computer adapted for the Chinese language.
Not one to slow down, the brand won 14 awards at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in the US for its Super X-Fi headphones. The headphone mimics the sound quality of a high-end multi-speaker system, delivering music at the same depth and detail – just like a 3D hologram but for audio.
DID YOU KNOW
In 1992, Creative became the first Singapore company to list on Nasdaq. And its CEO, Sim Wong Hoo became the country’s youngest billionaire in the year 2000 at the age of 45.
Established in 1887
Known for: the colonial-style luxury hotel
Doorman Narajan Singh greets you in his distinctive white Gieves and Hawkes uniform and the stunning architecture that beautifully blends luxury, history and colonial design dazzles from the moment you step through the door.
Declared a National Monument in 1987, Raffles Hotel is the brainchild of the Armenian Sarkies Brothers, who are known for posh accommodations in the East. Within its white walls are over a hundred expansive suites, surrounded by polished teak verandas and ivory marble colonnades around lush gardens.
In 2017, it was given a facelift to inject modern features while keeping its irreplaceable core – the unparalleled ambience, charm and heritage. The made-in-Singapore brand now owned by AccorHotels operates 11 luxury properties around the world including Raffles Bali and Raffles Istanbul.
Raffles Arcade is reimagined as a one-stop-shop filled with shopping, dining and lifestyle options. Head to Raffles Boutique for gifts, souvenirs and a heritage gallery showcasing the hotel’s rich history. Long Bar, home of the Singapore Sling, now sits at level two of the Raffles Arcade.
DID YOU KNOW
A tiger that escaped from a nearby circus was shot in August 1902 under the Bar and Billiard Room.