Conversations With the Buyer: Dairy Farm Singapore (Part-1)

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At Fine Food 2023 in September, Export Connect – in partnership with Investment NSW – facilitated a Singapore Market Insights and Networking Session with the Head of Commercial for Direct Import at Dairy Farm International (DFI) Retail Group (Cold Storage Singapore). The session attracted 80 participants from 55 different food businesses.

Attendees benefitted from first-hand insights into the Singaporean market, including essential economic and demographic data, insights into consumer shopping behaviours and eating habits, key channel trends and most importantly, an overview of DFI. During this event, attendees also had the opportunity to engage and network with the Head of Commercial for Direct Import at DFI Retail Group (Cold Storage Singapore). 

About the Buyer: Dairy Farm International (Cold Storage Singapore)

The Dairy Farm International Group is a leading pan-Asian retailer. As at 30th June 2023, the Group and its associates and joint ventures operate over 10,700 outlets. The key buyer that joined the market insights and networking session represented Dairy Farm Singapore, which includes Cold Storage Singapore, CS Fresh and Giant.

CS Fresh is an upscale supermarket group in Singapore, featuring experiential retail and dining, with a focus on fresh produce. Among CS Fresh stores’ offerings are premium seafood, bespoke butchery services, a high-quality drinks section and a wide range of organic produce, vegan choices.

Q&A Session Insights

Question 1: From your perspective, what are some current consumer trends in Singapore?

At the moment (*as at early September 2023), Singapore is having its school holiday period. This period generally lasts for a month. During this period, consumers are typically spending money to travel overseas, and as a result, this has meant our sales have been a lot slower than usual. 

In terms of expats, Cold Storage primarily services the expat community in Singapore, but we also prioritise satisfying the demands of local consumers. Given that many Singaporeans travel frequently, they have a high level of cultural knowledge and discernment when it comes to the things they choose to buy and consume.

Question 2: Which food and beverage categories present the strongest growth prospects in Singapore?

Looking at the total category, cereal bars, biscuits and snacking, what we call the ‘impulse’ category, presents strong growth opportunities in Singapore. I managed this category personally up until last year, and have seen the expansion within this segment. Additionally, the wellness sector is growing in popularity. Cold Storage has introduced a “wellness bay” in some of our stores to help consumers distinguish wellness and healthier products from the more conventional products featured in our main product aisles.

Dairy items such as milk and yoghurt currently account for a sizable amount of our sales in my category. Although non-food contributes about 5%, our main focus is on cereal bars, breakfast, wellness products and milk. When it comes to snacks, consumers purchase them for simple on-the-go consumption; especially if they are healthy and reasonably priced. Ultimately, pricing plays a crucial role in consumer choices and the products they purchase.

Question 3:  What percentage is Australian indent vs. other markets such as the US and UK?

For context, when I first started in my role, we were responsible for managing and directly importing 6,000 different SKUs. We have trimmed this down to 4,000 and now focus on importing products that result in sales, rather than the quantity of products. I oversee and manage 60 vendors across indent. These vendor relationships fall into two categories: either direct partnerships with brand owners or what we refer to as partner consolidators.

Back to the question, we also import a lot of products from other countries including the UK, New Zealand, US, Canada, France and Italy. The highest percentage of products we import is from the UK, followed closely by the US, Australia and New Zealand. Important to note that New Zealand is becoming an increasingly important source market for us. Additionally, in terms of promotion, we also run a yearly New Zealand fair across some of the stores.

Question 4: How often do you run Australian promotions?

We frequently run “Country Fairs” as part of our promotional activities. New Zealand and Australia are very consistent in supporting these promotional events. If we host Australia fairs, we like to showcase products that Australia is famous for producing like fresh meat, vegetables and dairy products such as yoghurt. 

I actually manage the Christmas in Singapore promotion, which is another huge promotional event. As such, I purchase a lot of products from Australia, particularly items such as chocolate. For indent itself, some of our major promotions alongside Country Fairs include Easter, Halloween, Chinese New Year.

We hope you’ve found these insights on the Singaporean market helpful. As always, if you’ve got any questions or want to discuss export opportunities for your company, feel free to drop us a line at Export Connect – we’d love to hear from you.