Trio find cheaper way to deliver healthier noodles

Trio find cheaper way to deliver healthier noodles

There is a rhythmic hum as the yellow noodles move along a long conveyor belt, getting washed, dried and cut by machines at Leong Guan's factory in Woodlands.

The process is mechanical and methodical, the hallmark of a food manufacturer serious about the art and science of making noodles in a country short of land - and now, short of manpower.

Leong Guan's products are found across the island and business is growing steadily, said executive director Lim Hock Chai.

Its 40,000 sq ft factory produces more than 20,000 tonnes of noodles a day and it is always on the lookout for new ways to diversify and expand markets, added Mr Lim in Mandarin.

Last year, such an opportunity came up. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) asked the company if it would start developing a wholegrain variety of noodles as part of a national campaign to get people to eat more healthily at hawker centres.

"But we know that hawkers are reluctant to use healthy noodles because they do cost more and customers are not asking for them. So overall demand is still not there," said Mr Lim.

"It did not make sense for us to produce and sell to such a small market, since the cost of transporting the noodles across the island was also an issue."

To overcome the problem, the HPB proposed that three food manufacturers - Leong Guan, Jia Jia Wang and Seng Kang - pool their resources to reduce logistics costs.

The arrangement was simple: The manufacturers, which are near one another in the Woodlands area, would send the healthy versions of their noodles to one location to then be distributed.

Jia Jia Wang was chosen to be the main distributor, so every day Leong Guan and Seng Kang send their noodles to the outlet to be transported to hawker centres.

"This way, we don't have to maintain our own truck or hire the driver. We can easily save something like $4,000 a month, which is good news, of course," said Mr Lim, who started out at Leong Guan as a delivery man.

The firm agreed to be part of the new arrangement and started distributing the noodles early this year, with support from Spring Singapore's Capability Development Grant.

Mr Lim said the set-up is good as it relieves the company of logistics worries.

He also hopes it will result in stronger demand for such noodles.

"We focus on getting our sales people to explain why healthy noodles are a good choice for customers," he said.

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