Cambodian sugar palm bread is the latest addition to the 7-Eleven convenience store chain in Cambodia, and is becoming a source of local pride.
The bread is now sold at all 25 Cambodian branches of 7-Eleven and has been well received by customers.
“Our 10 varieties of sugar palm bread have been on the shelves of 7-Eleven stores for less than a week,” said Bun Vuthdika, the owner of Chrizt Ben Bread and Cafe, who devised the recipes for the range.
The range varies from four packs of mini palm baguettes to 500g loaves of brown or white toast bread.
The bread, which is made from a combination of palm fruit and wheat flour, has a unique texture and taste that has captured the hearts of many Cambodians.
The loaves baked by Chrizt Ben Bread and Cafe may appear similar to other bread in town, except for their yellow hue, but the first bite reveals a soft and fluffy texture and a unique taste that sets it apart from bland white bread.
The natural sweetness and tender fragrance of palm sugar in the recipe create a pleasant aftertaste, perfect to enjoy with coffee.
The story behind the success of the Cambodian palm fruit bread is one of perseverance and hard work.
Chrizt Ben Bakery, the company behind the bread, spent six months negotiating with 7-Eleven before finally securing the deal.
Vuthdika said it’s well known that 7-Eleven has stores around the globe from Southeast Asia to Europe and the US. Therefore, the products on sale must meet international standards.
“They have strict standards for hygiene, packaging, and brand validation, and Chrizt Ben had to ensure that its products met these requirements before they could be sold at 7-Eleven,” he told The Post.
He said that the management from 7-Eleven demanded to have his products and facility adjusted again and again to comply with its standards.
For Vuthdika, the long process of negotiation was worth it. He sees three key benefits to entering 7-Eleven: Chrizt Ben Bakery gains free standard assessment, the product passes international tests, and it promotes Khmer national identity.
The fact that Cambodian palm sugar bread is now available at 7-Eleven stores is a source of pride for the country and its people.
“The availability of the bread at 7-Eleven is not just a boon for Chrizt Ben Bakery. It also supports the income of the villagers who harvest the palm fruit and bring it to the capital for processing. By buying these products, customers are supporting local communities and promoting sustainable practices,” added Vuthdika.
He sees the success of the bread at 7-Eleven as just the first step, and hopes that more people will learn to recognise the value of local products, making his products even more popular.
In the future, he aims to expand his market and introduce Cambodian products to 7-Eleven stores overseas, as well as other convenience stores.
“Several other local convenience stores and small marts now want to sell our products,” he said.
He also hopes that Cambodian people will think twice before cutting down palm trees and that palm fruit products will become a popular alternative to unsustainable practices.
Vuthdika says one of the things that interested him in making palm sugar bread was that it was a way to express patriotism and encourage people to take pride in their national identity, because the tree is so important to traditional village life in Cambodia.
Vuthdika has a deep connection to the sugar palm tree, which is a significant part of Cambodia’s national identity.
Traditionally, the tree is used for construction, cooking and eating implements, roofing and fencing, among other things.
His favourite treat is Nom Tnaot, a traditional Khmer palm fruit cake, which inspired him to create palm fruit bread when he opened his own bakery in April 2021.
He learned his baking skills from his relatives while studying abroad and eventually perfected his sugar palm recipe.
He said 90 percent of the palm fruits he buys come from villagers in Kampong Speu.
“Kampong Speu’s palm sugar is outstanding, but the palm sugar products of Siem Reap’s Preah Dak are more popular. Why? Because of a successful marketing campaign by the former governor,” he explained.
Today, Vuthdika owns three shops - two in Phnom Penh and another in Kandal’s Udong, his most popular location. He employs 72 employees, and hopes to expand to 80 locations with his own shops and convenience stores.
Aside from his famous palm sugar bread, Chrizt Ben Bread and Café offers an additional 60 varieties of baked goods, including apple loaves and soft-dried sapodilla bread.