16 March 2016

Singapore's F&B industry dives deep into value creation

Lee's presentation shared industry forecasts on the Asian food industry opportunity.
Lee's presentation shared industry forecasts on the Asian food industry opportunity.

Singapore’s food and beverage (F&B) industry is shifting its focus away from productivity and onto value creation. Spearheaded by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore), the industry is transforming as manufacturers look towards innovation, growth, and internationalisation.

Lee Yee Fung, Group Director for Lifestyle Business at International Enterprise Singapore outlines Singapore's strengths in F&B manufacturing.
Lee says Singapore F&B manufacturers have much to offer
the world.
From April 12 to 15, FoodAsia2016 will showcase a range of home-grown companies with first-of-a-kind creations as part of the Singapore Pavilion led by SMF. FoodAsia, a specialised exhibition dedicated to food and drink, is a part of Food&HotelAsia (FHA), Asia’s premier and most comprehensive biennial trade event for the food and hospitality industry. A total of 114 companies will be at the 1,857 sq m Singapore Pavilion, reflecting a 50% expansion compared to the previous event, with 24 others exhibiting in other events at FHA.

Asian F&B industry tipped for robust growth

The F&B industry is thriving in the Asia Pacific region as the world economy shifts from the West to the East. According to Euromonitor International, the region’s F&B ingredients industry is expected to have a CAGR of 4% over 2012 to 2017, accounting for 38% of global use of value-added food and drink ingredients by 2017. This prospect has attracted many foreign investors to expand into Asia, resulting in stiffer competition among local and regional F&B players. To compete, the Singapore F&B industry is looking toward creating long-term value and developing strategies that will set it apart.

“Despite a fall in global trade in 2015, Asia’s total trade with the rest of the world in packaged foods attained third spot in 2015, behind Europe and the Americas1. Asia Pacific is also projected to have the second-highest growth rate for packaged foods in the next five years2. So even with a modest economic outlook for 2016, there are pockets of opportunities in the region. It is thus imperative for Singapore companies to look beyond our market, innovate and transform their business models, in order to sustain future growth. With a strong ecosystem of food companies in place, the Singapore food and beverage industry is at a prime spot to ride this growth trajectory,” says Lee Yee Fung, Group Director for Lifestyle Business at International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

Prima Taste is introducing wholegrain LaMian (noodles) in laksa and curry flavours.
Prima is introducing wholegrain LaMian (noodles) in
laksa and curry flavours. One pack will fulfil an adult's 

minimum recommended daily intake for whole grains. The 
steamed noodles are made with 51% Superfine Wholegrain 
flour, and come with Prima Taste paste. The halal-certified packs 
do not contain added MSG or preservatives, and have no 
artificial colouring or flavouring. Typical instant noodle packs 
offer fried noodles and powder-based seasoning.
Lee shared Euromonitor figures on the packaged foods opportunity, nothing that the Asia Pacific CAGR is 4.8% from 2015 to 2020, second only to the Middle East and Africa at 4.9% for the same period. Australasia comes in fourth with a 1.9% CAGR. Lee also pointed out that Asians have become more sophisticated consumers, with Asia projected to make up 66% of the global middle class population by the year 2030, according to Kharas and Gertz.

Instead of going for the cheapest product, Asian consumers are demanding quality, convenience and safety in their food. "These are opportunities going forward and as food manufacturers we should think about how to capture those opportunities," he said, pointing to Singapore's advantages of infrastructure and a tradition in food safety as plusses. Inherent strengths, Lee said, include free trade agreements, an emphasis on food safety, and excellent business infrastructure, including global connectivity and Singapore's leading position as a financial hub.

Value creation and internationalisation 

New products and solutions that will be showcased by Singapore food manufacturers at FoodAsia2016 range from ready-to-cook meals, premium chocolates, and canned fish otah.

One example of innovation is frozen "Hargow Crystal Skin” in a retail pack, which is the first of its kind globally. Developed by Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing, the pastry to make hargow (Chinese shrimp dumplings), is traditionally handmade. Quality can be inconsistent, and it has to be made fresh each time to remain pliable. This product can be thawed as required, and offers a consistent, tender yet chewy skin after steaming. Tee Yih Jia anticipates that it will reduce food preparation times significantly and will benefit home cooks, restaurant owners, dimsum manufacturers.

Chef preparing hargow with the new frozen hargow skins (thawed).
Tee Yih Jia is introducing frozen hargow skins for more consistent hargow, every time. These are the first frozen hargow crystal skins in the world.

Source: Tan Seng Kee Foods (TSK). TSK is known for its KangKang (康康) fresh, preservative-free shelf-stable noodle range.
Source: Tan Seng Kee Foods (TSK). TSK is known for its Kang Kang (康康) fresh, preservative-free shelf-stable noodle range. The company is launching Express Meal Kits, which incorporate its noodles together with sauces for laksa, curry mee and the non-spicy prawn mee. All products are halal and have a shelf life of a month. 

Tan Seng Kee Foods (TSK), already well known for Kang Kang (康康) noodles, will be introducing Express Meal Kits based on the fresh, preservative-free noodles. These all-natural and preservative-free pasteurised fresh noodles have a shelf life of three to four weeks without refrigeration, six months in chilled conditions and 12 months if frozen. The company is launching Express Meal Kits, which incorporate its noodles together with sauces for laksa, curry mee and prawn mee. All three flavours were chosen for their popularity, with the prawn mee offering a non-spicy alternative for those who prefer it.

The Factory Chocolat is offering matcha flavoured luxury chocolate-covered fruit.
The Factory Chocolat is offering matcha flavoured luxury chocolate-covered fruit. The freeze-drying process preserves the antioxidant and vitamin content of the fruit.

The Factory Chocolat, manufacturer of a range of freeze-dried fruit chocolates, will be unveiling its Gourmet range at FoodAsia2016. It is one of the local companies that have successfully expanded and exported its products overseas, to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The company will introduce matcha (green tea) flavoured fruit chocolates, presented in premium packaging. Each fruit is carefully coated in a thin layer of dark chocolate and then white chocolate, and finally rolled in matcha powder from Japan that has been specially chosen to complement the chocolate and the freeze-dried fruit.

FoodAsia2016 is a good platform for us to introduce our new product as it presents a catchment with so many visitors coming from different parts of the world. It creates export potential for our product,” says Ronald Ng, General Manager of The Factory Chocolat.

SMF has in place several initiatives that aim to help local F&B manufacturers create value and internationalise, including the Working-in-Partnership (WIP) Programme. WIP allows local food exporters to consolidate their efforts and ship their products directly to overseas supermarkets. This does away with middlemen, helping food companies reduce operational costs, while leveraging on the strength of collective branding.

“Innovative practices and technology as well as strategic alliances are important pillars for the Singapore F&B industry to create value, stay competitive in the global and local market, and contribute towards a diverse global food industry. The Singapore Pavilion at FoodAsia2016 allows exhibitors to build networks and distribution channels. SMF helps to make the internationalisation process easier for our exhibitors through the Hosted Buyers Programme, whereby buyers from all parts of the world are brought to meet the exhibitors directly. We are seeing some positive results of food companies’ efforts to expand overseas, especially as the Made in Singapore brand becomes increasingly recognised for food safety and high quality, ” says Sunny Koh, SMF Deputy President and Chairman of SMF Food & Beverages Industry Group.

Sunny Koh, SMF Deputy President, speaking at a FHA media preview.
Koh speaks at a media preview of Food&HotelAsia.

Koh emphasised that both retailers and manufacturers have to transform, and the value chain trimmed. "Retailers facing challenge of operational costs, low margins and strong competition from e-commerce channels," said Koh. "For exporters, gone are the days where you sit in the office waiting for orders to come."

Internationalisation is the answer, Koh said, noting that food manufacturers can get help from fellow SMEs; government support; as well as from trade associations and chambers.

He shared that the Working-in-Partnership (WIP) Programme allows manufacturers to share the costs of shipping their food products in the same container, which is then sent to the port closest to the customer. The initiative helps SMEs to achieve internationalisation faster and more easily, he noted, and does away with logistics middlemen to narrow the price between e-shop and physical shop.

"Singapore products in China are selling at two to three times the Singapore retail price. WIP consolidation can cut retail prices down," he said. Soy sauce, for instance, may cost S$5.30 a bottle locally, but RMB78 (S$16.28) in China. "With WIP we can cut it down to RMB32.15 (S$6.71), and penetrate the market better, in a more efficient way," he said.

Koh added that the WIP programme, already working with companies in Thailand and Myanmar, is set to expand. "By going direct some of the Singapore products in Thailand can retail at almost same price as (those from) local manufacturers," he said.

This year, FHA expects to attract more than 65,000 trade attendees from more than 90 countries and regions. In collaboration with IE Singapore, SMF will be inviting more than 130 buyers from over 60 companies across 18 countries and regions to meet Singapore exhibitors through scheduled business matching sessions.

“We are pleased that more local exhibitors are taking up booth space this year. It is a testament to their confidence that the convergence of buyers and exhibitors from across the globe at FoodAsia forms a budding marketplace for the Singapore food sector to develop partnerships and broaden their network with the relevant buyers,” said Ting Siew Mui, Project Director of Lifestyle Events at Singapore Exhibition Services, organiser of FHA.

FHA will see many firsts in 2016, including a significant number of new exhibitors from Singapore, such as Boon Tong Kee, Fraser & Neave, Lam Soon, Owl International, Super Group and Yeo Hiap Seng. There are exhibitors from Singapore both at the Singapore pavilion and outside it. Individual exhibitors include Aalst Chocolate, Cocoaorient, Delifrance Singapore, Euraco Finefood and Foodxervices.


FHA2016 will run from 12 to 15 April 2016 at Singapore Expo (Halls 1 to 9 Annex) from
10am – 6pm (12 – 14 April 2016) and 10am – 4pm (15 April 2016)
The event is open to business and trade professionals only

Read the WorkSmart Asia blog post on what's new at FHA

1 According to International Trade Centre, total trade of packaged foods between each region and the rest of the world are as follows: Europe (US$416 billion), Americas (US$295 billion), Asia (US$197 billion), Middle East and Africa (US$88 billion), and Oceania (US$40 billion).
2 According to Euromonitor, Asia Pacific’s market size for packaged food is expected to grow at a 4.8% five-year CAGR till 2020. This is the highest growth rate projected after the combined Middle East and Africa region.