Share

Breaking bread with iBakery, Hong Kong social enterprise

Walk past any of iBakery’s outlets – its original bakery in Kennedy Town, the café in Tamar, or one of the many kiosks and pop-ups around town – and it’s unlikely you’ll miss the colourful, hand-drawn designs that have become emblematic of this Hong Kong business.

What is less apparent is that iBakery is a social enterprise, set up by the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals. About half of iBakery’s employees are disabled, and of that number, about 80 per cent are intellec­tually challenged.

Cafe chain encourages staff to overcome disabilities, strive for excellence

“Some people say that because it’s a social enterprise with a social mission, the prod­ucts don’t need to look good. But we strive for high quality in our packaging and our products,” says Livan Wong Lai-kuen, iBakery’s business manager.

“We have training and operations in a num­ber of industries as part of our rehabili­tation programmes,” says Jennifer Fung Wui-hing, business develop­ment manager at Jockey Club Rehabilitation Centre, the initiative from which iBakery was born. “We thought we’d give bakery operations a try, as it could be broken down into a number of small steps. Those more able could take on more steps, and those less able could take on fewer, making it flexible in terms of job matching. We believe everyone has a talent, and it can be dis­covered if you find the right job for them.”

The group started experimenting with the idea in 2007, in a small-scale bakery at a rehabilitation centre in Wong Chuk Hang. “People who tried the products said they were good, which encouraged us to try it in a public environment,” Fung says.

Inside the Hong Kong bakery giving reformed drug traffickers and murderers a second chance

In 2010, a retail bakery opened in Kennedy Town, and it still produces most of iBakery’s bread. A second bakery, in Tai Wai, focuses on cookies and packaged hot-ticket items such as madeleines.

“We want to offer our customers simple food, with no difference in quality from a regular commercial enterprise,” Fung says.

Some might say iBakery has gone above and beyond the achieve­ments of many busi­nesses, in its efforts to obtain ISO food safety management certification, and collab­orating with renowned bakers, pastry chefs and brands from across Asia.

Pastry chefs at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto trained iBakery staff to make cookies with matcha from 150-year-old Kyoto green tea brand Gion Tsujiri. And the brand’s yuzu madeleines are the result of a collabor­ation with Taipei’s Solarism Bakery, known for its all-natural breads, and Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, in Sha Tin.

“We’ve been lucky to have a lot of like-minded supporters and collabo­rators, who are also passionate about our philo­sophy of providing a happy work­place,” Fung says.

Wong adds, “We want to spread the word about social inclusion.”

And what better way to do so than through delectable baked goods?

For more details and branch locations, visit ibakery.tungwahcsd.org.