Singapore’s oldest medicated oil company is Chop Wah On, founded by Mr Tong Chee Leong. Today, his grandson, Mr Tong Kok Kong, runs the business with three of his siblings.
The formulas for Chop Wah On’s products have changed little over time, Mr Tong says. Safeguarding the company’s formulas is essential in order for the next generation of owners to continue producing the same oils without compromising quality. Keeping the formulas a trade secret is key for competitiveness among the brands. Ingredients used in the medicated oils are recorded, but the step-by-step process remains undocumented outside of the companies creating these products.
Instead, the changes have been technological: the oils used today are more refined compared to the oils used during his grandfather’s time. Also, to attract customers from the younger generation, the company has made the oil’s aroma less strong. During a lull in business during the Japanese Occupation, Mr Tong’s father experimented with new blends. He was an animal lover and created an oil to help stop bleeding and improve skin conditions using crocodile fat.
Well-known Chop Wah On products include Red Flower oil to address rheumatic pains, eucalyptus oil for its antiseptic qualities, and citronella as an insect repellent. Eucalyptus balm is their most popular product in the Singapore market. “The aroma relaxes the user, the oil eases the pain,” Mr Tong explains.