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Collaboration, innovation are key to F&B companies' growth

Sharing knowledge about regional competition is one example, says Chee Hong Tat

Mr Chee shared three promising trends in the F&B sector for companies looking to innovate for growth: plant-based proteins, carbohydrates with lower glycaemic index (GI), and elderly-friendly versions of traditional foods.

BY collaborating with one another and tapping on government resources, companies in the food and beverage (F&B) industry can leverage new trends and markets for continued growth, said Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry Chee Hong Tat on Tuesday.

Mr Chee was speaking at a dialogue titled "Innovation: The Key Ingredient in the F&B Industry Today", which was organised by The Business Times in collaboration with Future Economy Council on Oct 1 at Singapore Polytechnic.

He urged companies to work together in order to achieve better outcomes individually as well as for the industry as a whole. For example, they could share their knowledge about regional competition so local companies will know where future opportunities and challenges lie.

"It's important to have networks among yourselves, trade associations, networks of entrepreneurs. Sometimes you can discuss issues, or you go overseas and see what other people are doing, and check out the competition and new markets."

In addition, companies in the same sector can work together to tackle common problems. For instance, chocolate manufacturers may be trying separately to produce healthier chocolate. By gathering the various players through the trade associations and working with the polytechnics and universities, they could come up with a better solution that everyone could build on for their own products.

Said Mr Chee: "You can still keep some of your more unique elements that you need for your secret recipe and production process... but it's also not ideal if you don't cooperate at all."

Mr Chee shared three promising trends in the F&B sector for companies looking to innovate for growth: plant-based proteins, carbohydrates with lower glycaemic index (GI), and elderly-friendly versions of traditional foods.

Companies already innovating in these areas include Shiok Meats with lab-grown seafood and Alchemy Foodtech with a functional ingredient that lowers the overall GI of food staples like noodles and bread.

Singapore-produced foods will be in demand not just in Singapore, but in the region as well.

"There's a rising middle class. Purchasing power is going up, and people are looking for better quality food products. They want things that are tasty, healthy and safe," Mr Chee noted. "That's a space where Singapore companies can play, building on our reputation. It needs to then come together with innovation and R&D."

And while overseas expansion is crucial, Singapore companies should not give up on homeground efforts either. With ongoing projects to upgrade the integrated resorts, rejuvenate Orchard Road, and revamp Sentosa, the volume of tourists still has room to grow from the current 18 million in 2018.

Mr Chee said: "They are one source of creating demand for local products, both here and overseas, because when they come and consume the products here, hopefully they will like them. And then after they go home, they can order online or through their friends, and we can sell more in time to come."

The government is also working to make licence applications easier for local businesses, starting with the F&B sector. At the event, Mr Chee announced the GoBusiness Licensing portal, a one-stop platform that streamlines the previously laborious process of applying for licences.

Applicants will no longer have to fill out up to 845 data fields across 14 forms to set up a food services business. Instead, they will just need to fill out one form, and the portal will guide them to the licences they need based on their answers to a series of questions so that they do not have to search for the licences themselves.

"With technology and process re-engineering, I think there's a lot more that we can do to provide better service to our companies," Mr Chee said.

"Just as we keep telling companies to please improve your productivity and innovate, the government must do the same and do our part."

The GoBusiness Licensing portal will be launched on Oct 31. In the meantime, firms can find out more about it through related materials on LicenceOne, the current licensing portal.

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