BUDGET 2016 - Shaping our future together/Transforming the economy

Oodles of praise heaped on innovative noodle maker

(From left) Tan Seng Kee Foods' food technologist Goh Gui Xin, executive director Raymond Tan and director Annie Tan at their office at Gourmet East Kitchen.
(From left) Tan Seng Kee Foods' food technologist Goh Gui Xin, executive director Raymond Tan and director Annie Tan at their office at Gourmet East Kitchen.PHOTO: LIM YONG TECK FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Local noodle maker Tan Seng Kee Foods had never been able to expand its customer base beyond the usual wet markets, hawkers and restaurants, given that the shelf life of fresh noodles is just two days.

"We could not even go across the Causeway to sell," said director Annie Tan, 46, who is the third generation to run the family business.

Everything changed six years ago after her brother Raymond Tan, 44, spearheaded a two-year research and development project to develop new pasteurisation technology.

The technology extended the shelf life of fresh noodles naturally - to up to six months in chilled conditions. That meant the firm was able to sell in local supermarkets, export overseas and even come up with a new range of products.

"We have enjoyed double-digit growth year-on-year since we embarked on this innovation journey," said Mr Tan.

Its latest microwaveable meal kits, in flavours such as laksa and curry mee, are set to bring more opportunities for the 80-year-old home-grown business.

The noodle maker's efforts to grow through innovation were highlighted by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech.

Mr Heng hailed food manufacturing as a good example of how a sunset industry transformed itself into a thriving sector through the efforts of individual firms, as well as the industry working together as a whole.

The sector saw its real value-add per worker grow an average of 9.2 per cent a year from 2010 to 2014.

He noted the importance of having the right mindset in transforming the sector.

"There's no such thing as a sunset industry, only sunset thinking," said Mr Heng, quoting an industry leader.

Chong Koh Ping

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Oodles of praise heaped on innovative noodle maker'. Print Edition | Subscribe