For many years, Jane Tan had a personal mission: to find a delicious birthday cake for her god-daughter. While this might sound like a simple task, Jane’s god-daughter had developed allergies to nuts and eggs, and sensitivities to dairy and gluten at a young age. Hence, finding a cake for the little girl to eat safely was no easy feat.

A trip to the US made Jane realise how vegan-friendly ingredients might just be the solution she had been seeking. A trained baker and pastry chef, she decided to take up the challenge of creating the ideal cake for her god-daughter. She spent nine months perfecting a recipe for a vegan-friendly cake that was both delicious and safe for consumption. Being able to witness the little girl's joy at indulging in desserts safely led Jane to establish RÓA, a bakery championing the belief that “dietary restrictions should not be a reason to miss out on delicious treats”.

Jane learned about IPI in July 2021 when she attended the “Scaling Up your Product in the Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) Space” event, which IPI had co-organised with Innovate 360. She wanted to share her allergen-free pastries with a larger market, finding ways to increase the shelf life of her products and expand her customer base to the retail and export markets. She desired a packaging solution that could extend product shelf life without altering her recipe and production processes.

After having several discussions with IPI to map out her pain points, Jane realised that the optimal solution was to revamp her product formulation and develop the appropriate packaging. The next step in her journey was to find the right partner to help her, preferably one with holistic capabilities in formulating and packaging. IPI connected her with the Food Innovation & Resource Centre (FIRC), a food innovation centre in Singapore that offers technical solutions and resources to food enterprises.

While Jane had fruitful meetings with the FIRC, she was concerned about the marketability of her products as she had not established a stable customer base yet. As part of her plan to introduce her products overseas, Jane had been trying to form partnerships with two airlines, Jetstar and Scoot. Understanding her concerns, IPI's Adeline Chan—Senior Innovation Manager, Innovation & Technology—went above and beyond to put Jane in touch with both airlines.

“Giving the right assistance at the right time to our partners and wanting to succeed together with them are my greatest motivation in going that extra mile for them,” explains Adeline, demonstrating IPI’s spirit in creating opportunities for SMEs to grow.

Adeline’s facilitation sparked successful discussions between Jane and the airlines, boosting Jane’s confidence in the market potential of her products. Jane was now ready to kickstart her collaboration with the FIRC.

Playing to their respective strengths in baking knowledge and food innovation, Jane and the FIRC have been working closely to reformulate RÓA's products while ensuring that the taste, texture and allergen-free ingredients remain intact. Starting with non-filled cookies, they are developing a recipe that will naturally make the cookies more resistant to spoilage without compromising taste and texture. They aim to create cookies with a shelf life of eight months and source for packaging that is suitable for the reformulated cookies.

Moving forward, Jane will bake her cookies according to the reformulation in RÓA and partner with an original equipment manufacturer to scale up production. As she continues innovating with the FIRC, she reflects on their collaboration so far and notes the comprehensiveness of FIRC’s support. “From product development to testing, the FIRC covers a wide scope of work that you can tap into and provides you with valuable recommendations.”

Jane also expresses gratitude for IPI’s commitment to helping small businesses. “The advice given was targeted, useful and the connections made were helpful,” she shares. “I look forward to more partnerships with IPI in the near future.”