Henri Charpentier began as a small coffee shop in Japan’s Ashiya, a town located between Kobe and Osaka. Despite its humble roots, Henri Charpentier has close to a hundred stores in Japan and Singapore today.
For the past 5 years, we’ve been all about transforming and adapting our recipes to suit the taste of Singaporeans.
Ami Arita, CEO of Henri Charpentier Singapore.
Henri Charpentier is more than a familiar household name to Japanese who enjoy their delectable selection of French pastries and shortcakes. The brand is also feted by the Guinness World Record for having sold the largest number of financiers in the world for 5 consecutive years. In 2019 alone, they sold 29 million financiers worldwide—quite an achievement considering the competitive patisserie landscape in Japan!
We would not have been able to achieve this without the support of our loyal customers.
To extend their gratitude, the Henri Charpentier team returned to their hometown, Ashiya, and distributed financiers to every school student back in late 2017.
From Lawyer To Pastry Boss?
While Ami-san now runs a successful chain of patisseries, she actually started her career as a successful lawyer, having practised for over 15 years in Japan and New York.
Her venture into the wonderful world of French pastries is one that will melt your heart. Ami-san always had a fascination with pastries, which led her to Le Cordon Bleu, one of the most prestigious cooking schools in Paris, France.
While attending classes at Le Cordon Bleu, Ami-san met Goki Arita, the son of Naokuni Arita, who founded Suzette and Henri Charpentier. Armed with a successful advertising career, Goki-San joined Le Cordon Bleu to prepare himself to succeed his family business.
The two met at a cooking class in Le Cordon Bleu, fell in love, and with their love for pastries, succeeded Suzette Group and brought it to greater heights.
Succeeding in Singapore
Riding on the brand’s overwhelming success in Japan over the past 5 decades, Ami-san’s team decided to expand overseas. The first destination was the shores of Singapore in 2015.
Localising to a brand new country is an ongoing challenge even for seasoned veterans like Henri Charpentier. Besides changing tastes to suit local palettes, Ami-san and her team also have to take multiple factors into consideration. Differences in climate, ingredient availability and seasonality are just a few of these concerns.
“It is hard to create hype around strawberry season, when you’re one of the only few stores who are talking about it.”
So, COVID-19 Happened…
Ami-san travelled to Singapore on the cusp of the COVID-19 crisis in January 2020, bringing her 2 children in tow. Unsurprisingly, the past year has been a tumultuous journey for her both privately and professionally.
Her business in Singapore was heavily impacted due to the circuit breaker and social distancing measures. She was also separated from the rest of her family in Japan.
“As the global supply chain was heavily disrupted, there was a lot of uncertainty around ingredient availability. To keep our loyal customers happy, we had to adapt and innovate during this time,” she shares.
Besides the impact on the inventory and menu selection, the team also had to amp up their delivery game to stay afloat. Of course, this isn’t a story unique to Henri Charpentier. Many in the F&B industry share the same experiences, too.
Spreading Joy Through Food
It is in times of crisis that true compassion, empathy, and the spirit of humanity shines through. Even though Henri Charpentier had their own battles to fight, Ami-san and her team always remembered to give back. To spread love, they turned to what they were most familiar with: food.
Armed with their famed charpentiers, Ami-san and her team distributed care packages to frontline workers throughout the entire period of the circuit breaker. For this cause, the team made visits to Singapore General Hospital and Mount Alvernia Hospital twice a week.
And as the saying goes, happiness is often a two-way street. Henri Charpentier certainly received tonnes of love and appreciation from their customers which got them through this difficult time. This is clear from dedicated notes of appreciation to an influx of customers ordering pastry care packages for their loved ones. At this, Ami-San happily contends that “despite the social distancing measures, I feel more connected to my customers now than ever before.”