ITE students get a taste of food vending industry

Vending machines at ITE College East on March 28, 2018.
Vending machines at ITE College East on March 28, 2018.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - What goes into developing sauces for noodle dishes that are sold in vending machines? A group of students is finding that out.

Students at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will now be given the platform to research and market food recipes, and to innovate upgrades for existing food vending machines.

This is made possible by a new collaboration announced on Wednesday (March 28) between ITE College East, vending machine maker FastFlex and seven other industry partners such as Koufu and DokiDoki. The collaboration is projected to involve 80 students.

Said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann at the launch of the collaboration: "To further unlock the potential of the ready-meals market, businesses need to acquire knowledge about the latest technologies and logistics of vending. They also need the skills to develop new recipes that taste great and last long - not just on the lab bench, but also in mass production."

In the developmental stage of the programme, students are involved in creating food recipes and new food vending technologies which could possibly be introduced into the market.

Said FastFlex chief executive officer Dominic Ng: "I feel there is great potential to work with ITE in many areas that give students a learning opportunity closer to the real world."

For the past six months, students have, in partnership with Hiap Giap Food Manufacture, which makes noodles, come up with three sauces - wanton noodle sauce, zha jiang noodle sauce, and special spicy sauce.

They will soon move on to do research on shelf life and food quality in order to optimise their noodle dishes for sale in vending machines.

Ms Teo Jia Min, 23, a first-year ITE student, hopes to see the sauces they developed used in noodle dishes and sold in vending machines soon.

"Japan has vending machines with ramen and curry rice. Maybe we can create one with a Singaporean taste," she added.

These projects are worked into the school curriculum and offer internship opportunities. Courses that have the option of engaging in these partnerships include applied food science and mechanical engineering.

"We hope to rope in more students to front their own projects, as well as for more industry partners to come on board," said Ms Lin Zhiyin, 36, senior lecturer for applied food science, who mentored another group of students who created low-sugar gelato flavours.