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Why Food Fads in Singapore Don’t Last

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Last updated 28 November, 2016

Food fads in Singapore are a simple matter of demand and supply.

This article originally appeared in Dollars and Sense

Singaporeans LOVE food. All too often, we see on Facebook about some popular foreign craze coming to Singapore. This foreign craze then becomes our craze here in Singapore because curiosity kills the waist line cat. We all want to find out what is oh-so-good about it.

In the past, we had plenty of food fads whose popularity spread like a virus to our shores. People were waiting in line for hours just to sink their teeth into a piece. Some even queued overnight. There’s many kinds of food fads we can name. Beard Papa, Krispy Kreme, Lao Ban Soya Beancurd, Tim Ho Wan. Now, we even have egg tarts.

Why do we enjoy joining queues that snake for hours? Do we have nothing better to do with our time? Or is it just a Singaporean thing to be queuing up for new and popular things?

queue-in-singapore Photo source


Anyone who took economics would have heard of scarcity. To put it simply, there are limited resources to satisfy the demand in the market. When consumers know that something is in short supply, they clamour to get it. The psychology of scarcity can signal to consumers that the food is good, and of value. It validates the decision to queue for buy it.

Even when it is not a food fad, but a popular hawker food stall like Maxwell Hawker Centre, people still queue everyday. There’s only one stall. That is an example of scarcity being created.

We want to buy the food simply because we think that there’s a lack of it. Also, the fear of missing out (aka being kiasu) adds determination to stand in line. We want to tell others “I stood in line for 2 hours for this” with pride, and bask in the admiration of our friends and family.


Studies have shown that trying out something new increases the level of dopamine in our brain. Dopamine is responsible for memory, pleasurable reward, attention, and even mood.

When we expect to feel good about getting our hands on a box of Bake Cheese Tarts, we validate the wait to be worth it because the tarts were good.

When the novelty wears out, business will plummet. Just look at the number of Beard Papa outlets now. Their main outlet at Takashimaya Food Basement closed down. That is a prime example of what the death of a food fad looks like.

singaporeans-queuing Photo source

Demand and Supply

We can reduce the whole concept of food fads to a simple matter of demand and supply. When marketing campaigns are launched aggressively online and in the press, it creates demand. But no one really knows if it’s really good. We just hear that it is good, maybe from those who have tasted these food overseas.

When supply is available here, we demand it because we perceive the tarts/puffs/macarons to be valuable. We think, “It must be of premium quality.” When demand is high, the food fad outlet starts to expand. Some examples include Lao Ban, various bubble tea chains, Tim Ho Wan, and Krispy Kreme. Supply increases, sometimes drastically. These F&B brands hope to capitalize quickly on their popularity, and seek more profits than what their sole outlet with long queues can provide.

When the supply in the market increases, consumers may no longer perceive the food fad as premium because they can get it whenever they want. Basically, demand now equals supply. The scarcity value created by having a limited supply is no longer present. The queue subsides, and people who observe a short queue (or even no queue at all) will not be motivated to make a purchase because they no longer feel the sense of achievement when finally getting the box of Beard Papa cream puffs.

The death of a food fad is one that is usually inevitable. The loss of its hype is usually a slow and painful one for the business. Once it happens, they rarely bounce back, and fade into obscurity.

Pro tip: if you must really queue up and spend on a food fad, use a dining credit card like the CIMB Visa Signature Card to get discounts or cashback from your total bill. 

Read This Next:

How is a Humble Chicken Rice Recipe Worth S$2 Million?

9 Ways to Avoid Wasting Money on Your Next Restaurant Meal

By Chantelle Yu of Dollars and Sense is a website that aims to provide interesting, bite-sized financial articles which are relevant to the average Singaporean. Subscribe to our free e-newsletter to receive exclusive content not available on our website. Follow us as well on Instagram @DNSsingapore to get your daily dose of finance knowledge through photos.



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