Innovation spearheading Singapore’s food sector
As a proud nation of foodies, Singapore has also invested heavily into its food innovation sector, welcoming global MNCs, supporting local SMEs and pioneering future developments.

Different as they may be, both pre-wrapped frozen chocolate cakes and oven-fresh bakes are delicious essential products in a growing food sector. With revenue expected to reach almost S$339 million by the end of 2021, Singapore’s growing food market includes an abundance of pre-packaged food and snacks from MNCs as well as a variety of products from SMEs.

A major driving force behind this growth is innovation, which is leading to new and exciting flavours and food technologies. Through open innovation that reach a wide range of sources, from enterprises to individual consumers, MNCs can tap on a wealth of potential collaborators to chart the future of food and produce a steady supply of unique goods.

They can also work with local innovation centres and partners like IPI for fresh ideas and insight into consumer preferences. For example, MNCs can keep an eye on new technologies assessed by IPI on the Innovation Marketplace, or post their needs on the platform to source for relevant technologies and solutions.

As they set up shop in Singapore, MNCs contribute significantly to the local economy by providing jobs for locals, supporting home-grown SMEs and attracting investment to a growing sector. In this feature, we highlight the exciting innovations in Singapore's famed food space and how MNCs are leading the way.

Supporting inventors and entrepreneurs

With developments like a greater demand for nutritious and sustainable ingredients, companies in the food sector rely on creativity to stay ahead of competitors. One such company, international science-based giant DSM, provides breakthrough solutions for animal nutrition and feed, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements and more.

“DSM’s commitment to the companies we invest in goes way beyond funding,” explained Dr Michael Patane, head of innovation and technical APAC at DSM Singapore. “We draw upon all our collective experience to coach entrepreneurs whenever and wherever they need it—supported by the immense scientific and commercial resources within DSM.”

As Asia’s population grows and the need to provide nutritious food for everyone becomes a key priority, building sustainable food systems will be a crucial focus for both companies and governments alike. DSM believes that collaboration throughout the supply chain is key to addressing the gaps in Asia’s food systems. In recent years, Singapore’s R&D capabilities also have expanded significantly, providing a conducive environment for many start-ups.

To provide support for such start-ups, DSM set up the Bright Science and Technology Innovation Hub (Bright Science Hub) with Padang & Co, a local innovation company. Launched in 2019, the Bright Science Hub was established to connect technology start-ups, entrepreneurs and institutes of higher learning to boost development in the Asia-Pacific region. Businesses that have been a product of this partnership include Crunch Cutlery, which happens to be the first Singapore start-up to address the problems of plastic waste and poor urban nutrition with edible cutlery fortified with various micronutrients. Leveraging DSM’s expertise, the Bright Science Hub helps start-ups like Crunch Cutlery implement, test and commercialise their products, particularly within the health and food sector—actively growing the Asia-Pacific innovation ecosystem.

Taking on local talent

As MNCs set up offices or research centres in different locations, they bring with them jobs that will benefit the local workforce. By training and developing local talent, MNCs can help the country’s people and economy. American confectionery, food and beverage company Mondelēz International owns many popular brands, including Ritz, Oreo, Cadbury and more. Backed by its strong position in the market, the conglomerate focuses heavily on innovation with scientists, chemists and engineers working in R&D centres worldwide. 

More recently, a new technical centre was unveiled in February 2018 in Singapore. Mondelēz’s Singapore Technical Centre is home to scientists, developers, engineers, analytical chemists and other specialists from Singapore and the rest of the world.

With Mondelēz AMEA’s (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) regional headquarters located in Singapore, the company’s presence has provided local young tech talent with industry experience in a large multinational R&D team. Additionally, the company also makes it a point to work with a diverse pool of suppliers and partners.

“Our innovation teams work closely with Singapore’s vibrant and interconnected food tech ecosystem, including flavour and ingredient suppliers, incubators and accelerators, academia and research institutes, to gather insights, map trends and test new technologies and ingredient solutions that can be applied to our products, processes and packs,” explained Situn Misra, Open Innovation Lead, AMEA, Mondelēz International.

Working together with government bodies such as the Singapore Economic Development Board, MNCs like DSM and Mondelēz International are attracted to Singapore’s dynamic and innovative environment. The Republic's scientific talent and resources, combined with the diverse Asian consumer demographics, offer these large corporations a wealth of opportunities, funds and expertise to continue contributing to Singapore’s thriving—and hopefully, tasty—food innovation landscape.