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Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at Food Innovation Product Award Ceremony 2019

Speech by SMS Koh Poh Koon at Food Innovation Product Award Ceremony 2019

Mr David Tan, President of the Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (SFMA),
Members and partners from our food industry 
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. 


1. I am pleased to join you at the third Food Innovation Product Award (FIPA) Ceremony today.

2. FIPA is a valuable platform to catalyse collaboration and co-innovation among industry players, food manufacturers and students from our universities and polytechnics. By bringing together their complementary experience and expertise, the team members have been able to translate fresh ideas into tangible product offerings. Many have gone on to achieve successful commercialisation. As David mentioned earlier, the three editions of FIPA have seen over 60 companies incubate new food products, and about ten of them have since launched their products to market. 

3. The entries this year are of a very high standard. I would like to applaud all the 21 participating teams for the hard work that you have put in over the past 9 months to develop innovative products that are tasty, convenient and appealing to consumers. 


4. At the first edition of FIPA in 2016, we launched the Food Manufacturing Industry Transformation Map (ITM) with the goal of positioning Singapore as a food and nutrition hub in Asia. As part of the ITM, we identified innovation and internationalisation as two of the key ingredients for our companies to seize new growth opportunities. 

5. The F&B industry is highly competitive, both locally and globally. Companies also have to adapt to changing consumer preferences, such as the increasing emphasis on healthier options, new flavour profiles, sustainable sourcing and packaging and even the texture of the food itself. Creating unique, high-quality products through innovation allows our companies to differentiate themselves from the competition, and to grow their profitability and market share. I am heartened that according to a study commissioned by Enterprise Singapore in 2018, at least one-third of Singapore food manufacturers are already innovating . This is a good trend but we can do better.

6. Recognising that the innovation journey can be daunting for SMEs, Enterprise Singapore launched FoodInnovate last year. FoodInnovate is a multi-agency effort that aims to equip Singapore-based companies with the knowledge and resources to pursue food innovation. This includes providing access to shared facilities for the test-bedding of new ideas and to accelerate the commercialisation process. For example, by the end of next year, companies can make use of a small batch production facility at the JTC Food Hub @ Senoko, on a pay-per use basis. This allows experimentation with new product ideas at minimal costs. Many companies are already running and meeting their customers’ demands. Often it is quite challenging for them to stop production and experiment with new products. On the other hand, for startups or companies to buy new machines to innovate on new products when they are not sure of the market viability is also a costly endeavour. We hope that this kind of facility will encourage innovation and allow companies to operate as per normal and at the same time, finding the bandwidth to create new products and offerings.

7. Besides improving access to knowledge and infrastructure, the recipe to a successful food innovation ecosystem also requires strong collaboration both within and beyond the industry. We seek to drive co-innovation between MNCs, SMEs, and food science experts in our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) and research institutes like A*STAR. An example of this is the Food Innovation Resource Centre (FIRC) at the Singapore Polytechnic, which has worked with many companies such as Irvin’s, the manufacturer of salted egg snacks, to develop new products. Industry associations such as SFMA also play a critical role in this ecosystem, through spearheading initiatives such as FIPA. I am glad to hear from David that SFMA is also innovating on their platform to create even more opportunities and to do more next year.  

8. Innovation is not only the preserve of experts and corporates. Earlier this year, ESG also worked with IncuBaker to hold the Snack Genius competition for the first time. The competition uncovered many creative and delicious local-flavoured snacks developed by passionate individuals and home bakers. One of the things I enjoy about my consituency work in the community is that I get to discover a lot of hidden talents; we have opportunities to try food made from home from our residents and this is a testament of the many hidden talents around us. For all of you with such passion, talent and drive, I am sure Enterprise Singapore and SFMA will be happy to help connect you with relevant industry partners to commercialise your ideas. 


9. Having innovative products alone is insufficient if you are not able to reach a large base of prospective buyers. Given Singapore’s small domestic market, it is important that our businesses look beyond our borders and expand or export overseas. SFMA’s annual Singapore Food Expo and Asia Pacific Food Expo serves as a good test-bedding platform for our food companies to validate their product concepts with international customers. SFMA also leads our companies in participating in several tradeshows globally, opening doors for our food manufacturers and FIPA participants to pursue internationalisation opportunities.

10. To further facilitate market penetration, SFMA and Enterprise Singapore are currently piloting a retail pop-up in Tokyo, featuring new-to-Japan products from 15 Singapore food manufacturers. The event will run for two months, until the end of November. This is an excellent initiative to help our companies develop future sales channels, particularly ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Such pop-up events complement tradeshows and help firms to market directly to foreign consumers. In addition to raising brand awareness, companies can gain valuable consumer insights and refine their marketing and pricing strategies to support their internationalisation efforts. With the support of Enterprise Singapore and partners such as SFMA, I hope to see more of our companies banding together to explore new markets.

11. Innovation and internationalisation often go hand-in-hand.  Indeed, the innovation process has to start from a deep understanding of the target market segments. As part of a collaboration between Enterprise Singapore, the Victorian Government and Monash University, eight Singapore food companies were paired with cross-disciplinary student teams from Monash University to design and develop new products suitable for the Australian market. You saw some of the intense interactions they had in the video earlier. There were a lot of cross sharing of ideas and more importantly, it helped our companies to gain a better understanding of a new market that they are pursuing. This market-focused innovation model has helped Singapore companies to tailor their products according to the trends and preferences among Australian buyers. On this note, I encourage our companies to think more deeply not just about how to build strong innovation capabilities, but also how to leverage these innovation efforts to access new markets. Singapore is in the heart of a very dynamic growth region of Southeast Asia which has a huge potential market for all of us to capture. Our food companies have to target and enter these markets where they can have a key strategic advantage. 

12. My congratulations to all the FIPA award winners on your outstanding entries. To all teams, regardless of whether you win today, the fact that you are here means that you have learned much in the past nine months and found a partner who is prepared to work with you and take your ideas for future commercialisation. All of you are actually winners. I hope you will press on in your innovation journeys and bring more innovative Singapore products to our stores and homes, both locally and overseas. 

13. I would also like to thank SFMA and the various supporting partners for your efforts in organising FIPA and related initiatives. By building on these strong partnerships among our companies, trade associations, IHLs and government agencies, I believe the prospects will continue to be bright for Singapore’s food manufacturing industry.

14. Thank you.

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