Sea cucumber supplier, Sandhon, standardised processes and developed new ready-to-eat products by working with both IPI’s Innovation Advisory and Innovation and Technology clusters.


Sea cucumber has long been a prized delicacy in Asian cuisine and is a staple for wedding feasts and celebratory meals. But in our modern era of food delivery apps and rapidly evolving tastes, can a traditional treat like sea cucumber still capture younger palates? One local family-run company thinks so.

Recognising the changing times, Sandhon Trading has begun embracing innovation to not only preserve tradition but thrive in a modern market. Their journey towards growth was propelled by a strategic collaboration with IPI, leveraging services from both the Innovation Advisory and the Innovation & Technology clusters.

Sandhon Trading's introduction to IPI came through Enterprise Singapore's Partners for Business Growth programme in April 2023. Understanding the benefits of seeking external expertise, Sandhon worked with IPI to navigate the complexities of modernising their business and capturing new market segments.

"When Sandhon first approached us, they were eager to dive into product development for their ready-to-eat (RTE) products. However, we emphasised the need for thorough strategic planning and preparation first. We recommended an Innovation Advisor (IA) to help with their business strategy, identify target customers, ensure consistent product quality, and adopt a scientific approach to processing sea cucumbers. This foundational work is essential before product development,” said Faith Teng, Principal Manager, Innovation Advisory.

Their collaboration with IPI began with a project aimed at enhancing their previous processes. Sandhon engaged with IA Dick Lee, whose expertise in food processing proved invaluable. Prior to becoming an IA, Lee held senior positions at food manufacturing companies like Cerebos Pacific Limited and Olam Cocoa, where he oversaw manufacturing processes and supply chain operations.

Together, they developed new and standardised procedures for sea cucumber drying to ensure consistency and quality in their products.

"The sessions with Mr. Lee were amazing as he was candid and straight to the point with his experience with food processing. He utilises scientific knowledge to explain why we do things the way my parents have been doing and that helps us in understanding our process," said Soh Yeow Hwa, Director of Sandhon Trading.

Lee's guidance helped Sandhon carve out standards aligned with their branding strategy, setting the stage for future growth. The partnership with IPI's IAP cluster not only provided Sandhon with technical expertise but also served as a catalyst for reimagining their business model and product offerings.

Building on the momentum of the first collaboration, Sandhon explored further opportunities for growth through the I&T cluster. For this endeavour, Sandhon teamed up with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) on a project aimed at developing ready-to-eat sea cucumber products to attract a younger consumer base.

Adeline Chan, Senior Manager, Innovation & Technology remarked: "We encouraged Sandhon to adopt a holistic approach by engaging NYP and leveraging the school's diverse expertise. During their mid-project tasting session, we provided guidance on taste profiles, consumer preferences, storyboarding, and packaging sizes for their products. Additionally, we advised them to stay focused on perfecting the product and bringing it to market before exploring other initiatives such as roadshows."

Through this partnership, Sandhon utilised NYP's multidisciplinary approach, tapping into the expertise of various schools within the institution. From formulation and engineering to packaging design, NYP provided end-to-end support, enabling Sandhon to bring innovative products to market.

The collaboration with IPI's teams proved instrumental in driving Sandhon's business development and growth. By taking the time to seek external expertise and resources, Sandhon was able to modernise their operations, enhance product offerings, and capture new market segments.

Through the IAP, Sandhon gained invaluable insights and guidance, laying the groundwork for standardised processes and quality assurance. Meanwhile, the partnership with Nanyang Polytechnic further accelerated their innovation journey, enabling Sandhon to develop and commercialise ready-to-eat sea cucumber products tailored to the preferences of younger consumers.

This initiative would not only position Sandhon to capture a younger market but will also pave the way for a new business-to-consumer model. The move underscores the company’s commitment to innovation and adaptation in a dynamic market landscape.

Following their two-fold collaboration with IPI, Sandhon has their sights set on being known as the sea cucumber specialist in the country. “Just as you will go to Thai Village for shark fins, consumers will come to Sandhon for sea cucumbers,” Soh shared.