October 24 2022  |  Food & Beverage

SATS is spreading the culinary word

By Rick Lundstrom

This is a special feature from PAX International's 2022 IFSA EXPO Long Beach edition, on page 20.

SATS is working the export the flavors of the country through its FoodFlix program (Photo supplied by SATS)

Around any corner in Singapore, there is food in a dizzying variety of flavors and cuisines enjoyed by locals throughout the day and well into the balmy night.

The city-state’s statistical trackers say Singapore had more than 14,000 food stalls in 2021. They are in coffee shops, food courts, canteens, private markets and hawker centers feeding a city on the go where any spare moment can be used as mealtime.

Singapore hawker centers are large food courts with stalls around the perimeter serving everything from full meals to snacks and drinks. There are local dishes as well as flavors from across the world, including Chinese, Malay, Indian, and western.

With that much variety and ability to please diners, it would be neglectful not to mine the variety for innovation and export the concepts to other countries; and also use it to enrich the brands of the country and its many food producers.

SATS has been doing just that for nearly a year when it announced its efforts to take brands regional through a program called FoodFlix. For the airline caterer, the program is a win-win as it connects SATS with small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

“Through FoodFlix, these companies are able to leverage SATS’ network, customer base, large-batch production capabilities and innovations to expand their product portfolios and launch them into new markets and segments, including aviation catering,” says Goh Siang Han, Chief Operating Officer of Singapore Food Solutions, SATS Ltd.

Innovation in the city’s food stalls and hawker markets have been modified for the aircraft cabin (Photo supplied by SATS)

Other institutions are involved in the preservation of hawker cuisine as well. Deeply intertwined in Singapore’s makeup, hawker stalls were added to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December 2020. More than S$3 million (US$2.16 million) in support from Singapore’s Economic Development Board has been committed to creating and scaling new business ventures with strong global potential.

FoodFlix started in November of last year with an initial group of a dozen food companies. Some, like the Beach Road Prawn Noodle House and Killiney Group Hainanese coffee shop, have been around for 100 years. Bismillah Biryani Restaurant opened as a simple coffee shop stall in 2003 and later moved to Dunlop Street in the city’s Little India. It received a Michelin Bib Gourmand for four straight years from 2016 to 2019.

Not only is the FoodFlix program accelerating the development of the brands in other regions, but they are also a source of inspiration for the many customers of SATS that fly out of Changi Airport.

“Through FoodFlix, we would also like to enhance our solutions for our airline customers for a more satisfying passenger experience by offering branded products,” says Siang Han.

One example of the successful use of hawker concepts in the aircraft galley happened on Singapore Airlines with its Singapore Showcase. For two months hawker brand partners were featured on the menus of First Class and Business Class on selected flights from Singapore. Food products from Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice, Qiu Lian Ban Mee, Song Fa Bak Kut Teh and Beach Road Prawn Noodle House and Kok Kee Wanton Noodle each had their time in the front cabin

SATS’ ready-to-eat meals and handheld snacks capabilities are positioned for airline buy-on-board programs, and the company plans to expand this to FoodFlix’s partners in the future, developing products for buy-on-board programs.

SATS’ operations have branched out much further from airline food service over the years. The company has developed a line of ready-to-eat meals for retail sales called The Travelling Spoon. Last year, SATS also partnered Keng Eng Kee Seafood to create branded products for sale in supermarkets.

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