Bringing the Flavours of Singapore to The World

A passion for good food.  




Singapore is widely recognised as being a gourmet paradise with the country’s food culture a melting pot of many cuisines, such as Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian. Eating out is also a national pastime with cosmopolitan Singaporeans being equally at home with local dishes, as well as flavours from countries all around the world.
 
With Singaporeans being such passionate and discerning food lovers, it’s no wonder local companies have looked to distill these local flavours into food products for domestic consumption and international exports. In fact, the food manufacturing sector here is made up of about 840 companies, the majority of which are small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore, the range of food and beverage (F&B) products made in Singapore also spans a wide range of categories, from flavourings and sauces, to frozen foods and ready-to-eat meals, to confectionaries and beverages, and more.
 
To date, the food manufacturing industry has seen strong growth in production output and export sales. Based on official figures, the sector industry contributed S$9.1 billion of manufacturing output in 2013. Meanwhile, Singapore’s international food exports increased from S$6.7 billion in 2011 to S$8.2 billion in 2014, setting a consistently strong pace of growth. 

Setting the Stage for Growth 

The success of Singapore’s food manufacturing sector can be said to be a result of several factors. For one, the vibrant food culture here has provided local companies with a solid platform from which to innovate, develop and refine their products. Singapore’s position as a regional manufacturing and trading hub also helps to strengthen the food manufacturing sector, putting them in an ideal position to grow from. 
 
Another reason for the strength of Singapore’s food manufacturing sector is the strong support by the Government and its economic agencies. In mapping out its growth plan for the industry, it commissioned an international benchmarking study, which revealed that while local food manufacturers have strong established products and brands, stringent quality control and food safety standards that were comparable internationally, industry productivity levels still lagged behind countries such as the USA, Japan and Korea.
 
To bring the sector to a higher level, a wide variety of support programmes have been rolled out to help food manufacturers in areas such as product development, research and development (R&D), productivity, branding and marketing, and overseas market expansion. Such support has helped the sector stay competitive amidst the challenges of international markets.

Cultivating the mark for Quality Food 

For many years, Singapore has been building a strong reputation for its F&B exports under the Tasty Singapore name. Launched in 2004 by IE Singapore - the lead Government agency driving Singapore’s external economy - in collaboration with the industry partners Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (SFMA) and Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF), this collective brand identity aims to provide recognition to the best of the best amongst Singapore’s food manufacturing players. 
 
Companies looking to become part of the Tasty Singapore brand programme need to meet stringent food safety and quality management certifications. This ensures that Tasty Singapore Ambassadors are committed to offering reliable food manufacturing solutions to support Singapore’s reputation as a global food player. In turn, they can leverage the recognition of the Tasty Singapore brand mark - thus gaining better mileage for their marketing efforts overseas - while enjoying exposure through business missions, trade shows, food festivals and other retail promotions. 
 
In particular, the strong brand equity enjoyed by Singapore food companies is a significant advantage in their expansion to Asian markets. Singapore’s total F&B exports to the region grew by about 37 per cent between 2008 and 2012 to reach nearly $3 billion. Despite recent economic turbulence, Asia is still expected to be a key growth market, with its rising middle class. And with the ASEAN Economic Community looming on the horizon in 2016, Singapore food brands should expect to see greater opportunities arising from the creation of a single market with greater flow of goods. 

Raising the Game on Productivity 

In recent years, Singapore has been tightening the influx of foreign workers into the country as part of a national push for companies to restructure and increase innovation and productivity levels. To help the food manufacturing sector remain competitive globally during this transition, the Singapore government has been implementing a series of measures to transform them. 
 
One of the key initiatives which has already been in place since 2011 is the S$45 million Food Manufacturing Productivity Plan launched by SPRING Singapore, which seeks to raise the sector-wide nominal value-added (VA) per worker by 20 per cent by 2016, through automation and adoption of productivity improvement tools, product innovation and workforce investment. In an update at the Food Productivity Conference 2014, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong shared that some 1,300 food service and manufacturing companies have already embarked on productivity upgrading projects.
 
The food manufacturing sector is also set to benefit from SkillsFuture - a major national effort to help Singaporeans develop skills for the future. The SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme for Food Manufacturing was rolled out in April 2015 to support the industry to meet the need for skilled local talent from the polytechnics. In her launch speech, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health Dr Amy Khor pointed out that the programme will help strengthen the local talent pipeline for food technologists, food processing engineers and quality assurance officers.

Improving Economies of Scale 

In recent years, there has also been a greater emphasis on collaboration and consolidation to generate economies of scale amongst companies in the local food industry. For example, the SFMA, the SMF and the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) have utilised SPRING Singapore’s Collaborative Industry Project (CIP) grant to assist restaurants with the outsourcing of non-core food item preparation to food manufacturers. This has helped food manufacturers tap on greater economies of scale and encouraged them to improve efficiency through investing in automation.
 
Besides collaboration, the Government is also developing new infrastructure for the sector that will allow for greater sharing of resources. The upcoming Food Hub in Senoko - which is being developed by the JTC Corporation - will feature shared integrated cold room warehouse facilities to help reduce initial start-up cost of tenants and enable them to enjoy better economies of scale and lower operating costs. The facility will also be operated by a third-party logistics service provider, offering a full suite of logistics services to tenants.

Raising the Value of Food Products 

Besides helping Singapore food manufacturers with cost and operation efficiencies, the Singapore government has also been encouraging companies to leverage on innovation and technology to add value to their food products. One of the major enablers of value creation through the years has been the Food Innovation and Resource Centre (FIRC) at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), which provides local companies with access to food technology consultancy and platforms to develop new products, grow productivity and increase product shelf life.
 
Speaking at the NTUC FairPrice Made In Singapore fair in July 2015, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Mr Lee Yi Shyan shared that many local food manufacturers have been investing in R&D and innovation, as well as collaborating with the FIRC on new ways of improving the nutrition, texture, taste and shelf life of processed food, as well as discovering new ways to manufacture traditional food items and new packaging so that production can be scaled up for export markets. 

Pushing on to New Heights 

Despite the current global economic uncertainty and moderating consumer demand in several major global economies, there still remains much room for Singapore food exports to grow strongly, especially in Asia. In a way, Singapore’s relatively small domestic market means that export growth is an imperative if the food manufacturing sector is to continue flourishing. With a wide plethora of programmes in place to help companies build internal capabilities, facilitate new market entry and enhance their market presence, there is strong impetus for the sector to push on to greater heights.  

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