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Nestlé collaborates with Singapore’s A*STAR to study biotransformation

By RJ Whitehead , 22-Jan-2014

The Nestlé facility in Singapore employs some 120 people from 18 different nations
The Nestlé facility in Singapore employs some 120 people from 18 different nations

Food giant Nestlé has found a new research partner in the form of a Singaporean government agency to study, with whom it will be studying a number of food and packaging-related fields, including biotransformation. 

Over the next three years, Nestlé will be working with Singapore’s Agency For Science, Technology and Research to expand the company’s global expertise in areas of biotransformation—the use of natural processes, such as fermentation, to transform raw materials into ingredients with nutritional or functional benefits. 

Though used in hundreds of food products across the world, many Asian products in particular are based on biotransformation processes including, for example, tempeh—made from fermented soy beans—in Indonesia, and Korea’s kimchi, which is made from fermented vegetables with chilli.

Future of collaboration

This research agreement… provides the framework for future collaboration that will help to strengthen our food science and technology capabilities in Singapore and beyond,” said Nestlé’s chief technology officer, Stefan Catsicas.

Our goal is that closer collaboration with A*STAR will enable our team of food technologists, food engineers, chemists and microbiologists to share their knowledge and understanding in multiple areas of food science.”

Biotransformation, which can ale involve the use of enzymes and probiotics, can make products more digestible, improve their bioavailabiliy and extend their shelf-life.

Nestlé makes use of 34 research and development centres around the world. Its R&D facility in Singapore, set up in 1980, was the company’s first in Asia, and set out to meet the region’s economic growth.

Research hub

Singapore has been part of this rise, with the nation-state’s total manufacturing output for the food manufacturing sector increasing from US$4.5bn in 2007 to US$6.6bn in 2011. At the same time, value-added manufacturing output almost doubled from US$940m to US$1.6m, and the number of workers employed in food manufacturing also increased 20%.

“This agreement marks a significant milestone in propelling forward A*STAR's research thrust into food and nutrition,” said Lim Chuan Poh, the agency’s chairman. A*STAR hopes the partnership will boost its reputation as the preferred research collaborator in Asia for the global food and nutrition industry

The Nestlé-A*STAR agreement will also focus on areas in addition to biotransformation, including nutrition, packaging and data analytics.