SINGAPORE’S MOST ENDEARING BRANDS: NEW MOON CANNED ABALONE

Firm once bought for a pittance goes places

Chief executive Goh Kai Kui hopes to take the company even further, by extending and improving its product range to meet changing consumer needs, while targeting the online market as well.
Chief executive Goh Kai Kui hopes to take the company even further, by extending and improving its product range to meet changing consumer needs, while targeting the online market as well.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

For a company that was originally purchased for the price of a few boxes of potatoes, Goh Joo Hin has come a very long way - and not just because of its famous New Moon canned abalone.

In the 1940s, it was a wholesaler called Joo Hin, which bought agricultural products such as onions and ginger from local and overseas suppliers and sold them here.

Seeing its potential, businessman Goh Yeow Gek bought it for a pittance. The renamed firm expanded its product range while scaling down its business in raw produce.

In the 1970s, it moved into canned fruit and vegetables, adding meat and seafood, including New Moon abalone, over the following two decades. Next came bottled treats such as oyster sauce and abalone sauce.

Frozen ready-to-eat products came in the 2000s, including breaded chicken and buns.

 
 
 
 

That led to an unusual turn - distributing electronic accessories such as headphones from brands including Philips Electronics.

Chief executive Goh Kai Kui, the grandson of founder Goh Yeow Gek, said this step helped it make better use of its distribution trucks.

Goh Joo Hin now sells over 200 types of canned products containing fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood. This accounts for about 90 per cent of revenue; the rest comes from electronic accessories.

In a recent move, it has widened its range of health and wellness products, and beefed up its online sales, said Mr Goh.

Its products are distributed in 17 countries, mostly in Asia. House brand products are made at factories across 10 countries.

Mr Goh declined to give profit and sales figures.

All the firm's directors and shareholders are family members, but it is open to the idea of others taking on roles in the future, he said.

It has released health and wellness products such as collagen bottled drinks and collagen powder in recent years, and plans to introduce more such products.

It is also making its canned products healthier by changing ingredients, and using less salt and fat.

Consumers want a wider variety of products, noted Mr Goh, as they are earning more and can afford more than the basic necessities. This extends to wanting products that are healthier or that can improve appearance.

To cater to such needs, the firm must now devote more effort to product development, Mr Goh said.

It is targeting the online market as well. It aims to develop ways to sell all of its products online worldwide, as well as improve its delivery capabilities.

Still, it is not jumping in - rather, it is watching carefully until there is sufficient demand.

"We cannot be too early or too late (in moving into the online sales space) - we've got to be just in time," said Mr Goh.

Jeremy Koh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2015, with the headline 'Firm once bought for a pittance goes places'. Print Edition | Subscribe