From healthy kaya to fresh packaged soups, Singapore Poly forays into 650 food projects

Singapore Polytechnic students Seah Xin Hui and Shaun Koh, who interned at the polytechnic's Food Innovation Resource Centre. From projects that the polytechnic undertakes,the proportion that gets commercialised has grown from around 10 per cent in 2
Singapore Polytechnic students Seah Xin Hui and Shaun Koh, who interned at the polytechnic's Food Innovation Resource Centre. From projects that the polytechnic undertakes,the proportion that gets commercialised has grown from around 10 per cent in 2012 to 30 per cent currently.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

It has achieved this over nine years, with its researchers providing enterprises with skills in packaging and shelf-life evaluation

Researchers at Singapore Polytechnic have, in the last nine years, had a hand in more than 650 food projects, from Pokka Lemon and Kalamansi canned drinks and healthy kaya to fresh packaged soups.

The polytechnic's Food Innovation Resource Centre (FIRC) was set up in 2007 to provide food enterprises with technical expertise in aspects such as packaging and shelf-life evaluation.

Dr Lee Mun Wai, the centre's senior manager, said the number of projects commercialised has grown from around 10 per cent in 2012 to 30 per cent currently.

 

"Many of our tie-ups are with local companies and small and medium-sized enterprises that are trying to improve their processes and looking for opportunities to export products," she said.

Some of the centre's products available on the market include NuHoney, a carbonated honey beverage and a ready-to-drink version of the Singapore Sling.

These projects took months of research and development, with numerous consumer tests.

Dr Lee said that the centre tries to involve students in SP's food science and technology diploma course in its work, to equip them with practical training in line with industry needs.

Every year, it takes in 15 to 18 students on internships and attaches them to various projects.

Third-year student Shaun Koh spent five months last year trying to find out how different materials and preservation techniques would affect the shelf life of food products.

The 20-year-old experimented with a variety of packaging, such as metal cans and plastic containers, to help food stay fresh. "We put food like bread, meat, canned products and drinks in a chamber and set it at different temperatures and humidity levels, to accelerate the spoilage rate and find out the shelf life of products," he said.

Students like him were also involved in prototyping innovations currently displayed at the Future of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay.

Ms Seah Xin Hui, 19, also a third-year student, said: "We get to interact with clients on projects, handle different planning stages of product development and see the research that goes into it."

She was part of a team that made a prototype of a meal in an edible bag, a project that aims to reduce packaging waste.

Said Dr Lee, who is also the interns' supervisor: "We want the students to put on their thinking hats and look at developing new things, or think about how to do things differently."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore Poly forays into 650 food projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe