A cookie craze has taken Hong Kong by storm, and Cookie DPT is right at the forefront. COVID-19’s spread has affected businesses globally and sparked the world’s first mass work-from-home practice. The pandemic has put workplace endurance to the test as well as its capacity to respond to new problems, posing the issue of how things will be when business-as-usual resumes.
In times like these, the people of Hong Kong have developed a cookie craze. And no, we’re not referring to the cookies you keep on a hard drive; we’re speaking of the baked discs of sweet goodness that pull out the Cookie Monster in all of us. These ooey, gooey circles of comfort are one thing keeping us sane in such unprecedented times.
We’ve witnessed a slew of new cookie shops and concepts arise across town over the last year, most of which can be found through Instagram. So we tracked the crumbs to find out how cookie companies have been coping with COVID-19 restrictions. As the competition increases, the dough becomes thicker and the flavors are becoming more diverse.
One of the many Hong Kong cookie purveyors, Cookie DPT continues to stand out and maintain business in the era of COVID-19. If you are into sweets as much as we are, you’ve likely spotted Cookie DPT founder Wil Fang’s designs all across Instagram. His iconic cookies are incredible – dense, delicious, velvety, and they come in a range of flavors like milk tea, salted caramel apple pie, banoffee, peanut butter and jelly and Nutella-filled banana.
Fang relocated to Hong Kong from New York in 2009 with the plan of staying for only months; 10 years later, he’s deeply established roots in the area he now considers home. Fang’s initial target wasn’t necessarily cookies and his background wasn’t food service. Fang originally founded Department (DPT) as a multi-brand design store in Taipei after working in the fashion industry with big names like Ralph Lauren.
Fang turned a secluded spot of the store into a coffee shop and branded it Coffee Department, inspired by the American bakery products he grew up with. He sold freshly brewed coffee and homemade chocolate chip cookies, which he made himself and then handed the recipe onto his pastry chefs. Cookie DPT was established in 2018 after word of his mouth watering cookies spread across Hong Kong.
What began merely as an Instagram-DM company has grown to include pop-ups across town, a Basehall kiosk, a shop in collaboration with Westside Taqueria in Lee Gardens and a pop-up stall in Upper House. Fang’s Cookie DPT has had to simultaneously deal with the challenges of opening several new stores while also facing pressure from the far-reaching effects of the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions on business operations.
Despite those challenges, Cookie DPT really hit the ground running. “We really thrived somehow during lockdown,” Fang says. “I think we had a product that was just sort of really easy for people to pick up on the way home.”
“A lot of people were actually working from home, so it would be a nice break from the office to grab a cookie,” Fang continues. “A lot of people were having dinners at home so it was easy to pick up some cookies and bring them back for dessert. And even just people who are walking around, you know there was just so much bad news going on in the world. I think a simple HK$40 cookie … it’s a luxury, but it’s also something very accessible for most people to have.”
Smaller cookie companies have started to grow their businesses with digital marketing, inspired by Fang’s Cookie DPT Instagram. Fang believes that since they were “the first movers,” the growth of Cookie DPT happened pretty organically. “It was almost like we didn’t have competition,” Fang explains, “so we weren’t trying to fight for market share or posts or stories. We just created cookies. People started ordering them and sharing them with their friends.”
However, cookie companies such as Cookie DPT have to make sure that they stay on top of their game and let their creativity flow with new and irresistible cookie flavors. As more Hong Kongers are now exposed to such a vast number of companies to satisfy their sweet cravings. Cookie DPT has set a model for other cookie brands popping up. Fang says “there’s a little bit of that spontaneity still because every week we do still launch a brand new cookie flavor.” He acknowledges that “creating flavors … (through) collaborations … that’s keeping [us] at the forefront of this cookie craze right now.”
Cookie DPT has even more up their sleeve in the coming months, so be sure to keep an eye out for more than just cookies – they are planning to launch desserts and other savoury food items soon.
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