Asia’s Sweet Spots

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Harry Boot, senior VP & GM of Specialty Food Ingredients at Tate & Lyle, takes us through his thoughts on Asia Pacific and the tremendous opportunity for growth in the speciality food ingredient business. By Wong Tsz Hin

Lured by the business friendly environment that is ranked one of the best in the world, Tate & Lyle decided to move its Asia Pacific headquarters from Shanghai, China, to Singapore. According to Harry Boot, the company’s senior VP & GM, Specialty Food Ingredients, Singapore is a country with very educated people, very high work ethic, multi-language skills and full of ethics and integrity, and is centrally located to get to China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. 

Having grown up in Singapore, spending 6.5 years at Dover Road not far away from the company’s office at Biopolis, the country’s research and development centre for biomedical sciences, this is a second coming for Mr Boot after journeying across the globe for almost two decades, making pit stops in places like Sweden, Belgium, Hungary and China.

The company is looking at establishing a foothold in the region to service its customers in Japan, China, Southeast Asia & ANZ. As part of its expansion plan, it has recently made two acquisitions in China and is continuing to look for more opportunities to grow organically and through acquisitions. 

Among the company’s major markets are China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and India. “Australia is a fascinating market that has developed some innovative applications and India is another big market that is upcoming,” he said.

Despite slowing growth in China, Mr Boot says that the company does not feel under pressure there. “China’s GDP is still growing at seven to eight percent. We are focused on niches and focussed on specific markets and applications where we have competitive advantage and where we can win and keep growing.”  

The ageing population and growing awareness on health and nutrition in the Asia Pacific region have helped to spur growth in the demand for specialty ingredients. “In Japan & China, which has ageing populations, people are more aware and critical about what they eat and drink, and are looking at the packaging.”

“The APAC regulatory environment continues to evolve and develop and we spend a lot of time on this matter. We are also actively involved in the local FDA discussions to make it easy and safe for our customers to use our ingredients in a wide verity of applications,” he said.

Looking ahead, the company will continue to follow the right kinds of trends and develop products based on them. For example, to address the obesity epidemic that is affecting Asian countries, the company has developed products that can either reduce sugar content or replace sugar without affecting the overall mouthfeel and texture.

The company will support its customers in the Asia Pacific region through its laboratories in Singapore, Shanghai and Australia, with each of them having different capabilities and targeting different market segments. 

“It’s all very exciting,” he concludes.