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Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling at the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association Singapore Food Expo Online 2020

Speech by MOS Low Yen Ling at the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association Singapore Food Expo Online 2020

President, Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association, Mr David Tan

Immediate Past President, Mr Thomas Pek

Introduction

1. It is my pleasure to join you here today at the annual Singapore Food Expo.

a. For over two decades, SFMA has been organising one of the largest food expos in Singapore, rallying more than 150 exhibitors each year.  

b. The Singapore Food Expo this year unfortunately had to be postponed in the light of Covid-19 measures. But I am glad that SFMA is continuing with the Expo by taking it online. This affirms the association’s deep commitment to support and transform Singapore’s F&B industry.

2. The current pandemic has led to disruptions to Singapore’s business landscape and around the world. 

a. Businesses need to adapt quickly, make rapid transitions and step up efforts to adopt new strategies. We have to continually reinvent ourselves and harness the opportunities opened up by the disruption. Even in the midst of crisis, opportunities will emerge. 

b. I would like to share with you what I think are three key ingredients that are necessary for businesses to transform successfully: Innovation, Collaboration and Digitalisation.

Innovation

3. Innovation is the key ingredient of growth for food manufacturers, and all the more so in these critical times. 

a. Creating unique, high-quality products through innovation allows our companies to differentiate themselves from the competition, generate new revenue sources, and grow their profitability and market share.

b. Innovative products, such as plant-based proteins, sugar alternatives and texture-modified foods, can meet new demand driven by evolving consumer preferences and changing demographics both at home and in the region. 

4. In April 2018, Enterprise Singapore launched FoodInnovate, a multi-agency initiative to equip Singapore-based companies with knowledge and resources to pursue food innovations, with a vision to position Singapore as a location of choice to create food for Asia.

a. FoodInnovate seeks to be the top post-harvest food innovation platform for SMEs. It supports their innovation efforts through knowledge transfer, access to infrastructure and partners, and a vibrant ecosystem that encourages disruptive solutions.

b. For example, with the help of FoodInnovate, Alchemy Foodtech was able partner established F&B partners like Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant, Ajumma’s Korean Restaurant and Bangkok Jam – to successfully launch their patented Alchemy Fibre. This is a slowly-digestible blend of carbohydrates that lower the GI (glycaemic index) of any food it is added to.

c. Encouraged by the results, the company is already working with other food manufacturers, such as Gardenia, Lim Kee Food Manufacturing and Kang Kang noodle producers, to re-create healthier versions of their product without compromising on the taste. 

d. Over the next few months, we hope to see more SMEs embracing and benefiting from the FoodInnovate initiative. 

Collaboration

5. It’s not enough to just have clever ideas. A key ingredient for a successful food innovation ecosystem is collaboration, both within and beyond the industry.

6. Industry associations, such as SFMA, are crucial partners in this ecosystem.

a. SFMA organises the Food Innovation Product Award (FIPA) which enables participating companies to adopt a structured innovation process to ideate and develop new-to-market products.

b. For instance, some creative student-company teams have successfully developed innovative products, such as the Chufa Soon Kueh, which is made to contain more protein to cater to nutritional needs of the elderly.  Another product, Grab & Go Loh Mai Kai, contains a lower glycaemic index that caters to the health conscious.

7. Collaborations between businesses can also create synergies and innovative products that can cater to new market segments and consumer preferences.

a. For example, the Food for Elders programme launched in 2018 encourages collaboration between food companies and organisations such as the  hospitals and eldercare homes.

b. Such cooperation have led to the invention of products like high-protein Teochew Style Fish Stew from The Soup Spoon, and Silverconnect’s Rendang Fish for dysphagia patients. 

8. I hope that our companies and industry associations will continue to work hand in hand to improve our collective competitiveness on the global stage. 

Digitalisation

9. Given Singapore’s small domestic market, F&B companies must leverage digitalisation so that we can export our products and expand beyond our borders .

a. SFMA has been a key industry partner working alongside Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF) under the Smart Manufacturing Alliance to support the development of the Food Manufacturing Industry Digital Plan (FM IDP) with ESG and IMDA.

b. This plan charts out the key digital solutions across three stages of maturity. It also provides a useful guide for food manufacturing companies to plot their growth in their digital journey.

10. Other than digital solutions, e-commerce is another area of digitalisation that holds immense business potential.

a. While the shift towards e-commerce has been happening for years, the pandemic has made e-commerce more indispensable than ever for businesses, especially those in the F&B industry. 

b. Besides complementing existing brick-and-mortar stores to create additional revenue and raise brand recognition, e-commerce allows companies to diversify their business and be more resilient against disruptions.

11. A company that has successfully pivoted their business to the e-commerce space is Sin Mui Heng Food Industries.

a. In the seventies, Sin Mui Heng was the first dim sum company in Southeast Asia to automate its manufacturing process.  This has allowed the company to capture a large share of the domestic market and subsequently expand into Europe and the Middle East.

b. At the onset of Covid-19, the company saw that their primary stream of income could come from direct consumer sales. They were quick to start marketing their products aggressively on social media platforms and online stores, such as Facebook, Instagram and Shopee.

c. These moves enabled Sin Mui Heng to build a loyal customer base online, and grow its Internet sales by more than 37 times.

d. In the long run, Sin Mui Heng’s investment in e-commerce will make it more resilient and competitive, even after the pandemic is over.

12. I hope Sin Mui Heng’s experience will encourage more companies to venture into the space of e-commerce.

Conclusion

13. Before I conclude, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.

14. 尊敬的新加坡食品厂商联合会 陈来福会长;白毅柏前会长,各位嘉宾,很高兴今天在新加坡食品展的网上开幕典礼,和大家见面!

15. 刚刚我和大家分享了新美兴的例子,大家可以看到企业如何能够透过电子商务平台,开拓全球市场。冠病疫情,给新加坡及世界各地的商家和企业,带来了前所未有的挑战,也带来了转型的机遇。在过去这半年里,我们看到许多老板们本着创新和坚韧不拔的精神,不畏艰难,把危机变成转机。

16. 新加坡在食品开发和制造方面,有许多的优势,首先新加坡有着美食天堂的美誉,我们多元的文化和多元美食的选择,为食品创新提供了很好的基础;另外,各位老板和食品厂家,多年来通过严谨的食品卫生水平,让新加坡的产品在国际上,有很好的声誉和口碑,在这里要感谢大家,多年来建立和维护新加坡品牌的贡献。

17. 有了这么好的产品,或是有很好的点子,如果没有推销到全世界,不是很可惜吗?在以前的商业时代,要打开国际的销售渠道和网络,确实需要很大笔的投资和团队,但是现在,要接触国际,非常容易。我刚才也分享了许多政府的补贴和配套,因此希望更多的企业,能够善用数码化的机遇,扩大市场,放眼全世界。

18. 在这方面,商团和商会组织,也在帮助我们的企业一起走向国际。新加坡食品厂商联合会举办的新加坡食品展,今年昂然迈入了第21届,今年的食品展更扩展到了线上平台,方便国际上的买家和客户了解我们的产品。

19. 有了政府和商团商会的鼎力支持,我有信心本地食品业,业务一定会欣欣向荣、蒸蒸日上。

20. While Covid-19 has severely impacted our businesses and economy, it has also created the impetus for us to build stronger business capabilities and seek out new growth opportunities.

a. The Government is fully committed to supporting companies and helping them tide over this difficult period, so that we can emerge stronger together.

b. I hope that our companies will continue to innovate, collaborate and digitalise to stay ahead and seize the opportunities afforded by the market dislocation.

21. I am confident that SFMA that will continue to be committed to supporting and helping transform Singapore’s F&B industry. I wish SFMA a successful 2020 Singapore Food Expo and look forward to participating in the cooking demo.

22. Thank you very much.


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