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Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Nestlé’s R&D Centre 40th Anniversary

Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at the Nestlé’s R&D Centre 40th Anniversary

Mr Chris Johnson, Executive Vice President, Nestlé
Mr Guglielmo Bonora, Managing Director, Nestlé R&D Center 
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Good afternoon. I am very pleased to be here with you today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Nestlé’s R&D Centre in Singapore, and the launch of Nestlé’s R&D Accelerator. 


2. Nestlé’s R&D Centre was established back in 1980. So it is actually 41 years old. The 40th anniversary event was meant to be held last year, but unfortunately, it was postponed due to COVID-19.

3. Nestlé has a long history in Singapore. It began operations as the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company importing Milkmaid sweetened condensed milk back in 1912. In 1968, Nestlé opened its first manufacturing plant in Jurong, also manufacturing condensed milk. Subsequently, Nestlé opened the world’s largest factory producing malt extract, which is the main ingredient in Milo, right here in Singapore. Today, Nestlé Singapore employs over 600 employees and markets more than 500 different products, ranging from ice cream to soya sauce.

4. In my younger days, I remember drinking Milkmaid milk everyday. Milo was a treat on special occasions. Of course, after I became Health Minister, I had to cut back on my sugar intake. Thankfully, Nestlé has come up with uniquely Singaporean recipes, like the world’s first Milo Gao Kosong! 

Changing consumer preferences

5. Over the years, consumer preferences have shifted to place a greater emphasis on health and well-being. We observed this trend even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are also increasingly concerned about sustainability. More people are looking at plant-based alternatives and eco-friendly packaging. 

6. Nestlé’s R&D Centre plays an important role in meeting the demands of these emerging trends. The R&D Centre works on product development for key Nestlé products such as Milo, coffee, ice cream, and plant-based meals. 

a. I am glad to learn that Nestlé has been investing in R&D to further reduce the sugar content while enhancing the nutritional value of its products. 

b. This is very much aligned to the Singapore Government’s interests – to promote more R&D intensive activities in our economy and encourage healthier living amongst Singaporeans. In 2019, the Government allocated $144 million to support food-related R&D programmes such as sustainable urban food production and developing alternative proteins. 

7. This R&D Centre in Singapore serves not only our local market, but also the fast-growing Asian market. The team has to customise their offerings to the Asian palate and find ways to appeal to a diverse market in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region. That is how Maggi curry noodles came about!   

Foodtech collaborations

8. Over the years, Nestlé’s R&D Centre has collaborated with our public research institutions, academia and local enterprises. These collaborations play an important role in our innovation ecosystem.

9. Today, Nestlé will also be launching its R&D Accelerator in Singapore. This is part of Nestlé’s global R&D Accelerator initiative which was first launched at Nestlé Research in Switzerland. 

a. The goal of the accelerator is to drive foodtech innovation, especially for dairy products and plant-based dairy alternatives. 

b. The accelerator will help startups, educational institutions, and Nestlé’s business units bring products from ideation to commercialistion in a very short timeframe of six months. 

10. The teams that participate in this Accelerator programme will be given access to Nestle’s global expertise, as well as equipment that supports small to medium scale production so that products can be test-launched. Nestlé is also working with Capitaland to provide these companies with co-working space in the CBD. 

11. I am heartened that MNCs like Nestlé are committed to supporting innovation among startups and educational institutions while developing talent at the same time. This is a very good example of a ground-up initiative by the private sector that will have positive spillovers for the larger corporate ecosystem. 

12. Such collaborative initiatives are not new to Nestlé. Recently, Nestlé held a Foodtech Challenge in partnership with NUS. It attracted 43 teams of students which participated in the challenge to make use of food items that typically go to waste, like coffee grounds and spent grains, to develop things like ice cream, hot beverages, and noodles. 

13. The winning team produced a snack made out of spent grains, and they even developed a range of different flavours, including rendang, green curry, and chilli crab. These collaborations will strengthen our innovation ecosystem, as players can cross-pollinate ideas, tap on each other’s networks, and refine products to gain a better chance of succeeding. This leads to a virtuous cycle of attracting even more local and global companies and talent into this industry. 


14. Nestlé’s focus on sustainability is also aligned with the green economy strategies that were announced as part of the Singapore Green Plan earlier this year. 

a. Your R&D Centre has done good work in developing emerging areas like plant-based proteins, biodegradable packaging and by-product valorisation – that means making use of by-products that would normally become food waste. 

b. I was quite sceptical when I heard that the R&D team had also attempted to deliver the iconic Milo taste while using plant-based ingredients like almond and soy instead of dairy, because it is very hard to match the unique taste of the original Milo which we are so familiar with. But I was told that the demand for these new products has been quite encouraging, so well done to the R&D team!

15. Looking ahead, I understand Nestlé plans to strengthen your capabilities in plant-based meats and localise them to capture the growing market in Asia. This comes on the back of recent investments in our foodtech ecosystem by companies like Eat JUST, Proterra, ADM, Buhler and Givaudan. So Nestle is in good company, and I am confident your efforts will further enhance Singapore’s position as an innovation leader in alternative proteins. 

Talent Development

16. Nestlé’s accomplishments over the years are a result of the diverse team that you have built up, with staff from over 20 countries. Your company puts a premium on talent development, including through nurturing young talent, overseas rotations, and regular training programmes. 

a. For example, Sherrilyn Ng has been with Nestlé for more than 10 years. She started as an intern, and joined Nestlé as a food technologist working on culinary and dairy projects. She has also done overseas stints in Nestlé’s New Product Technology Centre in Marysville, Ohio in the USA, as well as the New Product Technology Centre in Orbe, Switzerland. 

b. Sherrilyn is now back in the Singapore R&D Centre, specialising in Milo powder and ready-to-drink beverages. Welcome home, Sherrilyn. 


17. I am very glad that Nestlé has such exciting plans ahead for the future, both in Singapore and for the wider regional market. I look forward to new collaborations, innovative breakthroughs, and sustainable solutions from your company for our foodtech industry. 

18. Congratulations once again on your achievements over the past 40 years, and on the re-opening of the newly renovated R&D Centre. 

19. Thank you.

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