Written by Julia Leong, Partner, Food Supply and Integrity Services
Famous worldwide for our undeniable passion in food, Singaporeans spend up to a total of $7.7 billion each year eating out. Today, our local food and beverage (F&B) industry boasts over 6,500 establishments and has approximately 750 companies in its food processing sector[i]. The potential of the already flourishing industry is obvious.
While we take pride in the safety and quality of our food supply systems, ranking 2nd on the Global Food Security Index[ii], local food scandals continue to dominate headlines every now and then.
Bearing in mind that Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of the food it consumes, with many of its food suppliers having operations extended offshore or outsourced, well-informed and affluent consumers are paying higher attention to the safety and quality of the food they purchase.
Food trust, which is essentially confidence in our food offerings, a guarantee that the food produced are safe and can be trusted, is therefore quickly rising as a vital asset for local food companies.
This brings us to the question: How can local food companies level up their competitive edge in food trust? Here are two strategic moves to consider:
Having a country reputation of being home to the world’s safest food supply system, coupled with the consumers’ trust associated with it, can serve as a strong differentiator that local food companies can leverage when competing with regional or global rivals. Echoing our Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat, during his SG Budget 2016 speech that trust and confidence must be built up among all players for an industry level transformation, it would therefore be beneficial to the F&B industry to approach food trust and safety issues in a collaborative way.
An example of such industry wide initiative include setting up a collaborative platform (eg. an online community or in other forms) that can enable industry players to share best practices and address common challenges to spur the development of creative solutions and promote closer collaboration.
Already, a number of Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association (SFMA) members have come together to collaborate informally – including sharing their resources, talking about market trends, and working together to innovate. Considering that the Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore is already driving 30 Collaborative Industry Projects (CIP) to support collaborations between enterprises and industry partners. Now is the right time to collaborate.
The food of tomorrow must address greater problems than simply filling our stomachs. As health concerns such as obesity and diabetes are on the rise, consumers are getting increasingly conscious about what they eat and how to use food both as a prevention and a cure. There are clear opportunities for the local food industry to develop a competitive edge by coming up with new food solutions.
For example, on the retail front, the Internet of Things can enable health-conscious consumers to make the right food choices via mobile devices or other health wearables in supermarkets or other food-retail outlets. Going backend, the safety and quality of pre-packaged food or ingredients can be made easier to monitor through technologically-enabled solutions such as colour-changing labels which automatically signal when food is of unacceptable quality or past the point of being fit for consumption.
To be at the forefront, innovation within the industry is key.
While Singapore’s food industry is currently trusted for safety and quality, food trust is an on-going commitment which can diminish easily if no recurring efforts are proactively taken towards maintaining it. When brand value is reinforced, and food trust is attained, it makes it easier for local food businesses to enter foreign markets.
Food companies that step forward to set new benchmarking standards for the industry are likely to benefit most – and this could determine the organisation’s current and future foothold in the market.
Click here to read the full article, by Julia Leong, published on the Business Times.
[i] Food Export, Singapore Country Profile, n.d.
[ii] Global Food Security Index, Rankings and Trends, 2015
Partner, Southeast Asia Food Trust Leader, PwC Singapore
Tel: +65 9756 2123
Tan Hwee Ching
Senior Manager, Food Trust Specialist, PwC Singapore
Tel: +65 9627 8602