Modules to help food and beverage businesses tap industry expertise

Whose Juice founder Kevin Ngian (right) giving a demonstration to his staff.
Whose Juice founder Kevin Ngian (right) giving a demonstration to his staff.ST PHOTO: ZHANG XUAN

SINGAPORE - When he started working in his family business six years ago, Siam Coconut was supplying hotels and restaurants with fresh coconuts.

But Mr Kelvin Ngian, 34, realised the 18-year-old firm needed to evolve to secure young consumers in the supermarkets. It went about trying to produce a shelf-stable bottled version of the traditional favourite, without heating the coconut juice.

After about a year of trial and error, it succeeded with a new product he named CocoLoco.

He said: "In order to preserve the nutrients, I did not want to heat pasteurise the juice." Heating, he said, can also result in the juice losing its freshness and flavour.

It would have been much easier if he could have tapped other industry players for their experience and knowledge, said Mr Ngian.

Those in the food and beverage industry will now have access to such resources on a mobile learning platform.

New modules in food and beverage-related courses were launched on Tuesday (July 17) on the sidelines of the Speciality and Fine Food Asia and Restaurant, Pub and Bar Asia trade show held at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

These modules will be made available on the Learning Enabled through Active Participation (ULeap) application, a mobile learning platform launched by the National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) in November 2017.

The modules are five to 15 minutes long each, and cover skills from how to prepare a latte to teaching businesses to engage audiences on social media.

The modules will rely on industry experts to contribute content, including those from the institutes of higher learning, organisations like the Asean Coffee Federation, as well as industry partners.

NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said that the food and beverage industry in Singapore is worth close to $4 billion, making it a sizeable industry which contributes almost 1 per cent to the Singapore economy.

He added: "In the face of a manpower crunch in a manpower-reliant industry, increasing productivity through digitalisation and innovative business solutions is one key way to stay at the forefront of the food and beverage industry."

He said that the curated bite-sized courses will enable the manpower-strapped and very busy Singaporean to learn even on the go.

Mr Ngian was one of the first users to be introduced to the new modules. He said he was particularly excited about learning how to digitalise his business. Modules on food science and technology, he added, will help the firm improve its products as well.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the event, chief executive of e2i Gilbert Tan said the modules will be "by the industry for the industry".

Mr Tan added that in order for the industry to innovate and succeed as a whole, businesses need to come together to share knowledge and information, so progress can be achieved quicker and more efficiently.

Mr Richard Khaw, deputy director for Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Chemical and Life Sciences, said that NYP will be offering a four module course - each 15 minutes long - in food labelling.

"It will allow new and existing businesses to learn about labelling regulations, and allow them to have the knowledge of what information a label requires according to the local regulations," he said.

Mr Ngian said that with the short courses available on the ULeap app, he can absorb useful information without having to compromise too much of his time.

He said: "I can listen or watch the modules on the go, during my commute and when I have a spare moment during the day."

"Plus it will be curated, which ensures that the source is both reliable and relevant, which will help filter out the information I actually need in this age of constant information bombardment."

The courses can be found on the ULeap app - available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, as well as on the e2i website - and are free to access.