Food Export – Country Market Profile: Singapore

Singapore is a country that is almost entirely dependent on imports to meet its food consumption demand. In fact 90% of the food consumed is imported. Learn more about the opportunities for U.S. food and ag suppliers in our country profile blog.

Singapore Title Card

Market Overview

USDA’s Office of Agricultural Affairs, OAA, in Singapore reports that Singapore is one the world’s most open economies and is highly dependent on international trade.  The country is almost entirely dependent on imported products for all its food requirements as it has virtually no local agricultural production. This is one of the factors that make it a good market for high value U.S. products including: fresh fruits, processed fruits and vegetables, fresh/chilled/frozen/processed red meats, dairy products including cheese, tree nuts and wine and beer.  

In 2018 Singapore ranked 28th among U.S. Agricultural Export Markets with a total of $836 Million.  That is a 72% increase from just 10 years previously in 2008!

USDA Singapore Full

Free Trade Agreement

The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was put into effect on January 1, 2004.  You can learn more about it on the Singapore Page of the United States Trade Representative website. Since the signing of its first FTA in 1993, Singapore’s network of FTA’s has expanded to cover 20 regional and bilateral FTAs with 31 different trading partners.

Korea Free Trade Agreement

Advantages & Challenges

Singapore’s role in regional trade is significant, demonstrated by the fact that re-exports comprise between 45% – 50% of total number of exports.  It also serves as a regional food showcase and headquarter for international food and agricultural related companies. Singapore is located at the cross-roads of major air and sea routes within the Asia Pacific region and serves as a hub and major transshipment center for much of the Southeast Asian region and the Indian subcontinent.

Competition with U.S. agricultural products comes from Australia, New Zealand, European Union (EU), Brazil, China and neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, who export similar consumer-oriented products. The market is very open and easily accessible which means there is usually quick entry for newcomers.  However, it also means that competition in some of the consumer products categories is very intense.

Retail Sector

Most of the food retail sales in Singapore take place in hypermarkets, supermarkets, and modern mini-marts. Online grocery shopping is only popular among busy working adults, as consumers generally prefer to shop physically at supermarkets and convenience stores which are highly accessible and conveniently located.

Singapore Retail Foods

Generally, the large supermarket chains and several up-market retailers import western-type products directly from source countries, consolidators, and distributors for their own outlets, while smaller retailers buy from local distributors. Products imported directly include juices, jams, confectionery, biscuits, snack products, salad dressings, pre-packaged deli meats and fresh temperate fruit.

There is a saturation of convenience stores in Singapore.  As convenience stores are located near each other, competition is intense. In addition, there is also stiff competition from supermarkets which offer products at lower prices as well as wider variety.  An increasing number of supermarkets are extending their operating hours to cater to consumers, thus increasing competition.

Food Service Sector

Singapore’s Hotel, Restaurants and Institutional (HRI) industry is extremely competitive. The food landscape is changing as a result of the introduction and preference of more foreign foods and popularity of online shopping.  Supermarkets are well stocked with foreign and exotic ingredients from around the world and the restaurant scene is following suit.

In Singapore eating out is common due to Singaporeans clocking more work hours and spending less time cooking.  Instead many are opting for “meals to go” and/or meals at hawker centers, food courts, casual dining cafes, coffee shops, fast food, etc.  Local food stalls at a hawker center are major local players. 

The local health authorities’ Healthy Dining Program has spurred consumers’ interest to eat healthy and this has led to increased demand for healthier meals and more healthy menu options.

Singapore Food Service

Food service companies in Singapore are widening their distribution network to other countries in the Asian region to achieve economies of scale in operation.  As individual restaurant requirements are small, Singapore food service companies provide an alternative supply chain to customers who have small but frequent procurement needs for U.S. or western type products. A number of well-known U.S. brands are being transshipped or distributed from Singapore.  Generally, products which have a longer shelf life and do not need refrigeration are more easily transshipped. 

Halal-certified foods, ingredients, and inputs are becoming more and more important in Singapore’s food service/HRI supplies market. Many of the fast food and Quick Service Restaurant chains are already halal certified.  This trend is also seen in Singapore’s hotel industry as the number of Muslim tourists and business visitors arriving from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Indiana sub-continent, the Middle East and China indicate that between 20% – 25% of all of Singapore’s foreign visitor arrivals are now Muslims.

Food Processing Sector

Singapore’s food processing sector is small due to limited natural resources, livestock and agricultural production.  As the country engages in minimal agricultural production, most raw materials for food processing are imported.  The few local food manufacturers that do exist cannot meet overall demand; hence, Singapore imports 90% of the food consumed in the country – including large amounts of processed food products.

Singapore Skyline

The United States, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and China are Singapore’s main suppliers of food/food products including foo processing products.  Competition depends on the product. 

The local food manufacturing industry spans over 17 sub-sectors – including flavors, sauces, ready meals, noodles, deli meat, sausage, confectionary, chocolates, snacks, and beverages.  The local processing sector is dominated by major food manufacturers in beer, non-alcoholic beverages, fish processing and snack products.

Some local food companies are keen to do business overseas.  It is estimated that over half of total manufactured output of food, beverage and tobacco sector is re-exported.  Some re-export products include beer, soft drinks, edible oils, chocolates, processed seafood, milk powder, condensed milk, sauces and spices.

Market Builder

Interested in exporting to Singapore but want to do more research before making a decision?  Take advantage of our Market Builder program which provides detailed and customized market research for you and your product to help your company uncover potential in international markets!

Singapore Market Builder

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FAS – Southeast Asia Retail Sector Offers Prospects for U.S. Food Exporters