Let’s talk Danish! No, not the language as such but the world-famous pastries, for instance served in hotels and sold in bakeries throughout Asia. No doubt, their origin is in Denmark. And now there is also a new genuine Danish player introducing such artisan pastries to Southest Asia – the real ones based on Danish recipes, traditions and fantastic taste. Entry market for this father-and-son business? Picked for specific reasons: internationally-oriented Penang, Malaysia! And the feedback from their customers so far is just ’wow’ – generating big sales success. Meet Danish by Danish Bakery!
Closing in on downtown George Town, Penang’s Komtar landmark a shop sign on a building corner reads ’Danish by Danish’. This immediately catches the attention of anyone being Scandinavian or with knowledge about the Nordics, and generates curiousity about if someone Danish might be involved! And this indeed turns out to the the case.
Also, there is a familiar face in this business: Erik Lund, the former Managing Director of Sunquick Malaysia (the Danish juice beverage brand) – now a retiree backing up his young son Johannes who runs the show in this new bakery adventure! They have just launched recently as ScandAsia in early March visits their brand new bakery store, which is entirely focused on danish pastries and also sourdough bread.
Johannes was brought up and attended internationals school in Penang during many years, so their choice and understanding of the market is clear. And when Johannes went with the family back to Denmark during the summer school holidays one of his first stops upon arrival was a Danish bakery, to buy and munch on real ’Danish’ pastries. Evidently, out of that a strong passion for pastries was born.
”You couldn’t get it here, so it’s also our mission to bring this to the Penang people and to Malaysia,” explains Johannes.
But the idea was born back in Denmark, as they had gone back there when Erik retired. There he renovated their house, with help of Johannes. And then: what to do? Erik felt bored, still with a lot of energy, and wanting to have something to do.
”We discussed ideas and one came up that we knew there were no Danish pastries in Malaysia. A lot of the five-star hotels advertise Danish pastries as part of their breakfast but in reality it looks like a small bun with a sausage as filing or whatever. So we went off and said: ’O.K, let’s try to set up a bakery for Danish pastries!’” Erik begins.
”Johannes had some knowledge already and through a good friend I managed to get him into one of the best bakeries in a Danish supermarket chain, where he worked there for five months and was in charge of the pastries, so could get into every corner of it.”
”I’ve taken a lot of courses at different bakeries, and we approached them to teach the ins and outs of this and that – all in order to be able to open up something on our own in Malaysia.”
At the same time Johannes was studying upper secondary education in Denmark – a path to continue with any bachelor degree studies at any university. ”The plan was that he would continue his studies, besides doing the bakery business. But the bakery took 14 hours of his time daily so there was no time for those studies anymore and we had to cancel the school,” says Erik.
So by starting Danish by Danish they mean serious business. ”Definitely, and we will succeed!”
Erik’s own expertise from the food industry is in this business mainly helpful when it comes to procedures; how different government bodies work that one has to approach to get various approvals etc.
”Johannes is more into the operational side and I’m backing him up, doing all cleaning etc. And It’s been quite troublesome – lots of obstacles to overcome and having to work 16 hours per day.”
But so far, in all it has been a great start for them on their home turf in Penang.
”The testing we did in Denmark and had many home bakes and tested on neighbours who said it was the best Danish pastries they had ever had! And then over here, giving our pastries to friends and others we’ve been hearing the same positive feedback,” says Johannes.
In order to explain the differnce we also need to compare with typical Danish pastries that already exist on the market – which is plentiful in bakeries and hotels, where ’danish’ has been the adopted name synonymous with the pastries.
In Danish it is called wienerbrød (Vienna bread), which is a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry in the viennoiserie tradition. Shapes are numerous, including circles with filling in the middle (known in Denmark as Spandauers), figure-eights and spirals (known as snails).
”The French bakeries here do the croissants and pain au chocolate but no one does the Danish wienerbrød pastries – at least not made the correct way. So we want to bring this to Penang, including quality bread. Their pastries also do not have a big variety,” says Johannes.
Erik adds: “Many believe it is the Danish pastries that they get. But what they are served today has nothing to do with Danish pastries!”
”If you ask me as a Dane, it is big difference what you can see here, comparing with French bakery. The Danish has not existed before us; it’s all based on the French,” adds Erik.
Now, the fact that the Danish pastry concept is well-known can benefit Danish by Danish, as they introduce the real traditions from their home country.
”Very early on we went out to small markets where we could set up a stand and realised that it was the perfect way to promote our bakery. The only way people know about it is through the hotels, which has nothing to do with the Danish pastries – so we started with tasting and giving out to curious passersby. And you could see from them this ’wow’ experience that repeated itself again and again.”
”Our record is selling 250 pastries in 2.5 hours.” adds Johannes.
The duo also believes the hotel sector will be interested in their products. “I think the high-end hotels will maybe go for it,” says Erik, who has also identified another affluent consumer group to target: Parents of children attending Penang’s international schools. “They are our key customers: wealthy locals going for European style etc. We will promote at these schools at closing time and use the tasting method. Once they have the wow experience they are willing to buy.”
So a tried-and-tested marketing method like this one still works! Other than that, Erik lets his son handle the marketing that is much more digital and social media-driven these days. Home deliveries is one such method being used.
Johannes also informs that later on they plan to have a second branch in Penang, but the big focus is on entering the Kuala Lumpur market.
Interestingly there is also quite a bakery history relating to the Lundh family: “My great grandfather started a bakery in Norway in 1922 that became the biggest in Scandinavia!”
“He had two daughters, one of them being my mother, and the other being married to an American businessman. He went to the U.S in the 1960s to research and then returned and ordered three fully automated lines, of which one could produce 3000 bread per hour. Then he bought big Mercedes trucks to distribute the bread, into Sweden too. He was the first one the market doing that,” Erik fills in.
”And we got established exactly 100 years later – in 2022!” smiles Johannes.
As for being back in Penang they are both all smiles. “Penang is a wonderful place, and when you land here you feel like coming home!” says Erik.
Johannes could not agree more: “Penang is definitely home to me – this is where I grew up and it’s the place I know. When I go back to Denmark I feel like I’m a foreigner. All my friends are here in Penang and I feel at home with the locals also. And Penang feels freer!”