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Fraser and Neave plans to bottle healthier drinks in four-year university tie-up

Image 4_NTU Prof William Chen (left) and F&N's Dr Yap Peng Kang.jpg
The F&N-NTU F&B Innovation Lab is helmed by William Chen (left), director of NTU Food Science and Technology Programme, and Yap Peng Kang, head of corporate R&D of F&N.

MAINBOARD-LISTED drinks maker Fraser and Neave (F&N) has launched a four-year research tie-up to look into developments such as healthier products, with a new laboratory opened on Monday.

Singapore-based F&N, which is majority-owned by Thai Beverage, produces the Seasons brand of iced teas, flavoured sodas in the Sparkling Drinks range and Ice Mountain bottled water, among other beverages.

New recipes could be under way, based on potential findings from research at the new F&N-NTU F&B Innovation Lab at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) - which was set up in an arrangement billed as F&N's first long-term joint research partnership with an academic institution.

Some 30 researchers will carry out work that could be used by either F&N or other players in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, with product freshness and environmentally-friendly packaging among the research projects that have already been put on the table.

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The Business Times understands that both parties are making in-kind contributions to set up the facility, with the funding - an undisclosed amount - coming entirely from F&N.

Lee Meng Tat, chief executive of F&N's non-alcholic beverages division, said at the launch: "In line with our commitment to deliver sustainable business practices, our collaboration with NTU will see the furthering of our green efforts as well as catering to the health and nutritional needs of our consumers."

NTU president Subra Suresh said in a statement that the partnership "will lead to unique opportunities to develop innovative products to benefit consumers".

"This collaboration will foster research that will result in better food products, greener packaging, and conversion of waste produced from food processing into valuable resources," he added. "This project further strengthens our passionate commitment to eco-friendly initiatives, whereby our sustainability research benefits society and industry."

William Chen, director of NTU's food science and technology programme, and Yap Peng Kang, head of corporate research and development for F&N, will be co-directors at the lab.

Previous industry investments in food research at universities here include the Kikkoman Singapore R&D Lab at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which opened in 2005 and was fully funded by Japanese soya sauce maker Kikkoman Corp, as well as the WIL@NUS Corporate Laboratory at NUS, supported by agri-business group Wilmar International and unveiled in June 2018.

In its latest full-year financial statements, released last November, F&N flagged the possible impact of government policies on consumer sentiment and cited Malaysia’s upcoming “sugar tax” on sweetened drinks.

F&N closed up by S$0.02, or 1.18 per cent, at S$1.72, after the event.