F&B firms urged to look abroad for growth

SINGAPORE - Firms in the food sector were urged to look abroad for growth opportunities at the opening of the annual Singapore Food Expo.

Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said that besides raising productivity, food firms should consider expanding overseas.

"Singapore is ultimately a small market, and our companies must go overseas to continue growing," he said.

Mr Lim was speaking at the opening of the five-day Singapore Food Expo on May 29 organised by the Singapore Food Manufacturer's Association (SFMA).

The event - now in its 15th year - will showcase over 150 food exhibitors and is expected to draw more than 600,000 visitors.

The minister added that there is "strong potential" for international expansion, especially into Asian markets.

"The Asian middle-class is fast becoming an important group of consumers," he noted. According to statistics from the Singapore Economic Development Board, the nation's total food and beverage (F&B) exports to Asia grew by about 37 per cent from 2008 to reach nearly $3 billion in 2012.

But Mr Lim also warned that competition is more intense in the international arena.

"To do well, companies need to have quality products that are well-differentiated. They need to have strong marketing and branding for their products."

The opening also saw the SFMA introduce its Great Singapore Food Gift Award, which will recognise food firms that sell distinctive local food products.

Award-winning foods will be made available through retailers and at Changi Airport, and marketed in a catalogue to be distributed at places like hotels and tourist spots.