From Singapore to Australia – Insights into the Packaged Food & Beverage Market (Part-1)

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Woolworths Marrickville Metro. 30th January 2018. Photograph Dallas Kilponen/PPR

With more similarities than you may imagine, the import market between Singapore and Australia is strong and growing. Despite Australia having five times the population of Singapore, there are plenty of key characteristics that the two countries share which makes it a more rounded option for Singaporean food manufacturers looking to enter the packaged food and beverage market in Australia.   

These similarities and changes to the sector around COVID-19 were discussed in a recent webinar held by Export Connect in conjunction with Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (Export Connect’s first international partner), Woolworths and Shopability.

The webinar saw over 160 participants come together, with 40% being Australian food and agribusiness and 42% being Singaporean food and agribusiness. 65% of participants are current exporters, and there was a right mix between large business and SME’s, including San Remo, Bertocchi, Twisted Healthy Treats, Mekhala, and Eng Bee.

Key Demographics – Australia vs Singapore

When looking to import to Australia, it is essential to understand just how similar the markets are. One of the most significant differences is in the population where Australia has 25.65 million people compared to Singapore’s 5.71 million. The other big difference is, of course, in the GDP – $1.39 trillion in Australia compared to $372.06 billion in Singapore.

Some of the major similarities include:

  • Urban Population – 86.12% Australia compared to 100% Singapore
  • Population Growth Rate – 1.4% Australia compared to 1.14% Singapore
  • GDP per Capita ($USD) – $57,071 Australia compared to $58,829 Singapore

In both Australia and Singapore, health factors are an essential consideration, and there is a fair amount of disposable income which people in both countries have a propensity to spend. This means good news for businesses looking to import into Australia from Singapore – but they do need the right products.

Hui Wen Chong, Regional Director for Northeast Asia and Oceania at Enterprise Singapore firstly explained the role that Enterprise Singapore played and then a quick overview of the Australian market for Singaporean food manufacturers and exporters.

“Enterprise Singapore is a government agency that champions enterprise development, working with companies to develop capabilities, innovate and internationalise.”

Hui Wen noted that the Australian packaged food and beverage sector is well-positioned for growth, as grocery shops remained open during the pandemic. She pointed out that product ranges have been evolving and an expansion is happening of private-label goods, ready to eat meals and meal kits. Along with the growing popularity of Asian cuisine, Hui Wen mentioned that there is a broader range of product available on the shelves.

With COVID-19, it is expected that the prioritisation of packaged foods will continue, particularly as consumers become more price-conscious and opt for more home cooking.

“Singapore brands will be competing with the global market – brands already selling in the market and brands looking to sell in the market. It is important to spend time understanding your target market and your competition”, said Wen Chong.

She noted that Singaporean food manufacturers and exporters would need to build brand awareness, develop a marketing plan that highlights the benefits of their products, develop their USP and have a reliable supply chain to support sales in the market.

Marnie Macaulay, Senior Own and Exclusive Brand Manager at Woolworths agreed that a reliable and consistent supply chain is important.

Australia, one of Singapore’s Leading Export Markets 

It may come as a surprise to some that Australia is one of Singapore’s leading export markets for packaged food products.

Cindy Ang, Associate Director Lead/Special Projects at Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (SFMA), notes that SFMA represents around 400 Singaporean food companies. She mentioned that there is an increased awareness of Singaporean cuisine in Australia, showing that Singaporean products can be in the mainstream market.

What may be of interest to many Singaporean food manufacturers, according to Macaulay, is that the Woolworths group is always interested to hear about food trends from around the world to see if the products fit in with what their customers are looking for. Working together with everyone from large global companies right down to small family businesses has shown many benefits for both manufacturers and the packaged food and beverage industry in Australia.

Peter Huskins from Shopability noted that one of the most significant benefits to international food manufacturers is that retail grocery stores can put products into particular stores, targeting the ethnic diversity of those who shop at those specific stores. These grocery companies can segment their stores by ethnic shopper profiles and put products in front of the right people.

Huskins said that it was essential to have access to a distributor network to ensure international products’ success within the Australian packaged food and beverage market.

Key Consumer Characteristics – Australia vs Singapore

It’s interesting that while many of the key demographics between Australia and Singapore are similar, so are many of the key consumer characteristics. Huskins noted a range of consumer characteristics that are very similar between the two countries, including:

  • Urban living with a high income
  • Seeking healthier lifestyles and adopting a more ethical mindset
  • Educated
  • Seeking convenience
  • Highly engaged online
  • Price-conscious

One of the biggest differences is that within Australia, consumers aren’t as brand loyal as they are in Singapore, although Singaporean consumers will change brands if they feel it necessary.

This is the end of the first part of a two-parter insights series. You can read the second part of the series on our blog next week. We hope you’ve found this overview of our recent online forum on the Australian maarket 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.