SINGAPORE — Every year, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Mooncake Festival is celebrated in East Asian countries when the moon is said to be the brightest and fullest. The traditional festival is an occasion when friends and families get together to eat mooncakes – a type of pastry that is usually sweet or sweet and savoury.
When is Mid-Autumn or Mooncake Festival in Singapore?
In 2023, the Mid-Autumn – or Mooncake – Festival in Singapore falls on 29 September. The weeks preceding this date will see a flurry of activity among mooncake sellers marketing their mooncake varieties and unique packaging. Consumers will be on the lookout for mooncake flavours and imaginative packaging to gift to friends, family members or clients.
From traditional oven-baked mooncakes filled with salted egg yolk and lotus-seed paste to non-baked snowskin mooncakes containing novel ingredients, mooncakes are considered premium items. Branding matters too – for instance, the signature champagne truffle snowskin mooncakes sold by Raffles Hotel is pricey, compared to mooncakes bought from traditional bakeries.
Prices of mooncakes from top hotels in Singapore
Here's a look at how much some premium mooncakes cost at five hotels in Singapore known for their mooncakes:
Raffles Hotel Singapore
Champagne Truffle Snow-Skin Mooncake (8 pieces)
Sakura & Raspberry Truffle Snow-Skin Mooncake (8 pieces)
Shang Palace Spirulina Mung Bean with Bird's Nest Charcoal Mooncake (4 pieces)
Premium Black Thorn Durian Snowskin Mooncakes (8 pieces)
Reduced Sugar Plain White Lotus Seed Paste (4 pieces)
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore
White Lotus Seed Paste with Double Yolk (4 pieces)
Mini Snowskin White Lotus Seed Paste with Yolk (8 pieces)
Snowskin “Mao Shan Wang” Durian (4 pieces)
Goodwood Park Hotel
White Lotus Seed Paste with Single Yolk (4 pieces)
Snowskin Black Thorn Durian (4 pieces)
Snowskin Ondeh Ondeh (4 pieces)
Peony Jade (Amara)
Flaky 'Orh Ni' Mooncake with Premium Golden Pumpkin & Single Yolk (4 pieces)
Baked Mooncake with Premium 'Jin Hua' Ham with Assorted Nuts and Tangerine Peels (4 pieces)
Cognac Truffle Espresso & Chocolate Crunchy Pearl Mini Snowskin Mooncake (8 pieces)
Factors influencing mooncake prices in Singapore
Why exactly are mooncakes so pricey? In this article, we'll explore the factors that influence the pricing mooncakes and why this traditional pastry tends to cost more than your average dessert.
1. Packaging and presentation
Mooncakes are commonly given as gifts when the Mid-Autumn festival comes around. Hence, there is much emphasis on its packaging. From elaborate boxes to themed packaging, sellers are constantly coming up with more imaginative boxes every year.
"The inspiration behind this year's Mid-Autumn Festival package design for WOK°15 Kitchen was to create something distinct from the typical drawer-style boxes commonly used for mooncakes," said WOK°15 Kitchen, a Cantonese restaurant in Sentosa Cove. The team said it noticed that people rarely reused these boxes once the mooncakes were consumed and wanted to design packaging that could be repurposed and are also visually appealing.
The resulting design features a box with floral cutouts with a loop on the top to give it the appearance of a lantern. The design on the packaging comes with the image of a peacock against the moon, which symbolises luxury and beauty, according to the restaurant.
Could the elaborate packaging add significantly to the overall cost of the mooncakes?
A set of four WOK°15 Kitchen's Exquisite Snow Skin Mooncakes is priced at S$79, and a set of four of its Classic Baked Mooncakes is sold at S$69.
While WOK°15 Kitchen has declined to reveal the exact cost of its packaging, it said that it "takes packaging into account when determining the costs of our mooncakes" and that its priority is to "strike a balance between affordability for all customers and upholding the exceptional quality of our handcrafted mooncakes".
Local food blogger of "I Eat I Shoot I Post", Dr Leslie Tay, believes that mooncake prices have been going up over the years because of stiff competition among sellers to come up with more elaborate packaging.
"Mind you, if sellers ever come up with individually wrapped Chinese New Year pineapple tarts that come in nice boxes, I'm sure they'll be selling them for S$50 to S$60 at least," said Dr Tay, adding that buyers who don't want fancy packaging can opt for cheaper mooncakes that are packaged in simple paper boxes. These are typically sold at local "old-school bakery places".
Besides traditional mooncakes that are comparatively simpler, more elaborate mooncakes are increasingly being made, such as mooncakes with premium ingredients like Mao Shan Wang durian, truffle, champagne and bird's nest. While the premium ingredients are pricey, the cost of the base ingredients to make mooncakes are rather affordable.
A quick check on bakery supplier Phoon Huat's e-commerce store RedManShop reveals that the price for 1kg of pre-made lotus paste costs around S$16.00 while 1kg of pre-made red bean paste is cheaper at around S$8.30. There are also a variety of other paste flavours ranging from pandan to green tea mung bean, with a price range of around S$8 to S$21 per kg.
All-purpose flour, commonly used for making the skin of traditional mooncakes, is priced at around S$4 per kg, while cake flour, another substitute for making mooncake skins, can be bought for S$2.95 per kg.
3. Brand reputation
The reputation of the mooncake brand is another factor that affects its pricing. Popular mooncakes, such as those sold by Goodwood Park Hotel and Ding Bakery tend to have higher prices in part because of their reputation.
For banking relationship manager Elroy Lim, leaving a good impression is a must whenever he buys mooncakes for his clients. Every year, he buys his mooncakes from Goodwood Park Hotel – the hotel's mooncake prices range from S$49 for a two-piece set to S$138 for four pieces.
"It's a brand that makes the recipient go 'Wow, this is pricey stuff!" said Lim.
"Our mooncake packaging for this year takes a traditional approach with a modern touch, centering on a classical lantern design with floral embellishments in a metallic copper theme," said a spokesperson for Goodwood Park Hotel.
Others, like financial consultant Cheong Jia Qi, consider factors such as taste and seller locality when selecting which brands to go for.
"When it comes to ordering mooncakes, every year we are offered the option of corporate orders that come with customised company boxes. Last year, we worked with Mandarin Oriental," said Cheong.
"However, I believe in supporting local businesses. So, this year, I am looking into Insta-shops like Ladyleflour or Mahota. I do quite a bit of taste testing to ensure that the flavours and quality are good for my clients," Cheong added.
4. Labour costs
According to Dr Tay, the cost of labour is an important factor that affects the pricing of mooncakes. Dr Tay said that machine-made mooncakes tend to have thicker skin – "machines are unable to make them that thin" – and are much cheaper. Handmade mooncakes, he believed, have much higher value and are the preferred choice of most people buying mooncakes.
"People buy mooncakes for different reasons. Some people want to eat them, so freshness is important. If you want to buy mooncakes for clients, I don't think freshness is the main factor. You would look to packaging and price range instead," said Dr Tay.