F&N of the future: Singapore ‘smart factory’ and innovation centre to focus on health and sustainability
The facility is expected to be ready by late 2021, and will cost F&N some S$80mn (US$58.8mn).
In terms of production, the facility has been designed to incorporate modern infrastructures and optimise manufacturing to deliver ‘leaner production, increased productivity with reduced human intervention and vertical integration and connectivity within supply chain’ upon completion.
“The plant is designed with a state-of-the-art Automated Storage and Retrieval System and will boast improved vertical integration and connectivity within the supply chain,” F&N Foods Managing Director Jennifer See told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“The new facility is also designed to be the product innovation centre of the F&N Group. It will further strengthen F&N’s research and development capabilities to expand its offerings of health and wellness beverages with sustainable packaging solutions.
“The dedicated research and development centre will accelerate the translation of innovative ideas and concepts into finished products. This R&D division [located] within the new factory will play a large role in offering healthier choice beverages for consumers.”
In addition to packaging, the factory also aims to implement sustainable practices in its operations, by looking at water efficiencies, energy conservation, environmental programs and waste management with the Singapore government’s BCA Green Mark Platinum award as its target.
For products sold in Singapore, F&N produces most of its ambient range in Malaysia, but non-ambient, temperature-sensitive items such as yoghurts and chilled drinks are locally produced, hence this facility will also effectively ensure freshness, safety and quality for such products.
“This new 375,000 sqf facility [will] enable F&N to consolidate most of [our] Singapore non-alcoholic beverages operations under one roof, thereby achieving operational synergies and economies of scale,” See added.
Health and wellness development
See added that Singapore presents ‘strategic opportunities as a logistics and innovation hub’ and stressed that this would enable the company to extend its offerings to other regional markets.
One of these regional markets would undoubtedly be Malaysia, a market where F&N also has deep roots in.
Health and wellness product innovation and research is a major concern for the company in this market, not least due to the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages implemented on July 1 2019.
In response to the announcement of this tax, F&N Malaysia had initially announced that it would be looking at raising the prices of its affected products, which it later retracted. Instead, the company is looking at reformulating some 70% of its products instead.
As the product innovation centre for the F&N Group as a whole, this new facility is likely to have an important role in performing the R&D for the company’s reformulation efforts in addition to new product development.
F&N has been in Singapore since 1883 – giving it 136 years of history in the country. It is currently owned by Thai beverage giant ThaiBev.
According to F&N Chairman Koh Poh Tiong, the company’s long history in Singapore is not the only reason for building the new facility there as opposed to places where it also has firm roots, such as Malaysia, but emphasised that having ‘similar aspirations’ with the local government was what drove this.
“Many have asked me the question – why invest in Singapore? Why not in some other countries in the region where the population/consumer base is much larger; the construction, manpower and other costs are much lower?” said Koh.
“F&N’s vision for growth mirrors that of the Singapore government: promoting a healthier lifestyle for Singaporeans, championing liveability and sustainability initiatives and challenging new frontiers as an innovation launchpad.”