Selling Dreams - Early advertising in Singapore
Throughout the 19th century, food consumed in Singapore by its different communities was mainly sourced locally and from around the region. It was common to find tips and guides on how to procure local produce from markets and provision shops in cooking books published in Singapore until the first half of the 20th century. In particular, books targeted at European audiences contained guides for those wishing to cook dishes from abroad with local ingredients. For example, dairy cream and milk would be substituted with locally sourced coconut milk, and oranges and lemons (found only in North America or Europe at the time), with locally sourced limes.
However, there was a revolution in food consumption across the world – including Singapore – in the early 20th century, as food technology such as aerated water, preservatives, refrigeration and tinned food, in particular, entered the mainstream. By the turn of the century, residents in Singapore were able to procure meats, fruits, dairy, and vegetables from overseas that were previously unavailable locally. This explosion of new foods in the market meant that new ingredients from overseas could be incorporated into local dishes.
The rise of manufactured local and foreign food products prompted a rise in advertising for them, which could be found in all manner of books, newspapers and magazines. As the ability to purchase and consume imported and manufactured food products was a sign of relative wealth, many products advertised food with images of a modern, affluent lifestyle, framing their consumption as something to be desired.