New culinary hub helps S'pore F&B players share resources, reduce costs

The six-storey, 22,000 sq m Xpace building at Pandan Loop serves as the headquarters for the X-Inc group. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - A food distributing company has launched a culinary hub consisting of kitchen spaces, warehousing and more to help players in the food and beverage (F&B) industry share resources and reduce overhead costs.

The six-storey Xpace building (pronounced as Space) in Pandan Loop serves as the headquarters for the X-Inc group. It spans 22,000 sq m, or about the size of three football fields.

It also houses tenants from the speciality packaged food segment such as Garrett Popcorn and The Ice Cream Cookie & Co.

On top of food distribution, Xpace also provides kitchen space for tenants for their manufacturing processes, as well as facilities for ideation and product-testing.

For example, Garrett Popcorn used to outsource its warehousing, said Ms Nichol Ng, X-Inc's chief executive.

"So they store the packaged items elsewhere, and then they pop their corn in the kitchen and get a third-party logistics (partner) to move their popcorn to their outlets," she said.

"Here, we're managing the storage of all the ingredients for them. They just produce their corn and our guys deliver the popcorn directly to their outlets."

Ms Ng was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a visit to the Xpace building on Thursday (Sept 30).

She said that she and her brother, company managing director Nicholas Ng, had to explore new ideas for the business to thrive.

"For many years, it was just a distribution and a trading model… We felt that a lot of people in this (industry) were feeling a bit lost, especially with major big brands coming in. And margins are being squeezed.

"Basically, we don't really earn much from distribution any more. So between the both of us, we've been exploring what the future of X-Inc is, and what our company stands for."

X-Inc, which was established in 2016, is the parent of a group of companies covering businesses from food service and retail to logistics and property.

The six-storey, 22,000 sq m Xpace building at Pandan Loop serves as the headquarters for the X-Inc group. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

It has its roots in a traditional food trading business founded by the Ng family called Ng Chye Mong Marketing, and was modernised by the two siblings.

X-Inc is working with international and local farms to distribute their produce, while also helping them to pool resources to benefit from economies of scale.

Said Ms Ng: "Farmers should focus on growing the best produce. Where we come in is, we sit them down with our sales team and connect them with customers so they don't have to do cold calling.

"More importantly, they get to piggyback on our network because we have our own fleet of trucks, cold storage and warehousing as well."

X-Inc serves more than 4,500 customers, including hotels, restaurants and airlines, providing them with over 7,000 products.

Ms Ng said the company has helped local farms cut costs and simplify processes.

For example, if there is a small order of vegetables, instead of the farm having to engage a third party to help with logistics, an X-Inc truck heading the same way can help with the delivery.

Local farms collaborating with X-Inc include the Aquaculture Centre of Excellence's (ACE) Eco-Ark fish farm, and vegetable farms Livfresh and Packet Greens.

X-Inc has helped local farms cut costs and simplify processes. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, who attended the launch event virtually, said an important part of X-Inc's work is how it works with its suppliers to help them develop and market their products.

Describing their business model as "progressive", Mr Gan said: "We're looking at a new way of doing food services and food products, and creating new experiences."

As a collaborative space, Xpace allows food companies to cooperate and share experiences, as well as explore collaborative efforts such as sustainable food products and utensils, he added.

There are thus many opportunities for companies providing F&B services even during the Covid-19 pandemic, and after as well, Mr Gan noted.

"I think this common, collaborative model is very important for our food and beverage industry to be successful," he added.

Home-grown deli meat business Jill's Sausages, a tenant at Xpace, said the collaboration and co-working space have been a good learning environment.

Its founder, Mr Nicholas Lee, 37, said: "We had been focusing on production, but there's a lot about warehousing and inventory management that we are not so good at.

"(There is a system at Xpace) already set up. Adding a few items is easy for them, but it really helps us a great deal."

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