Consumer Business Singapore


Consumer businesses seeking to expand their footprint in Asia can use Singapore as the gateway. With a central location within Asia, strong scientific and brand management capabilities, as well as conducive business environment, Singapore is the ideal location for consumer businesses to innovate and drive regional growth strategies. Consumer businesses can also tap on Singapore’s consumer insights capabilities to enhance their competitive edge through a better understanding of the similarities and differences among Asian consumers behavior patterns. These consumer insights can be translated into brand and product innovations which cater to the unique needs and preferences of Asian consumers.



Asia’s stellar economic growth has created a burgeoning consumer market which will see 3.2 billion people in the middle-class segment by 2030, up from 525 million in 2009. Asia will account for more than 80 per cent of the growth in global middle-class spending, which amounts to US$55 trillion from US$21 trillion in 2009. These affluent Asian consumers increasingly demand more sophisticated products and services that cater to their needs and preferences. Repackaging consumer products created for Western markets and selling them in Asia will no longer suffice. To effectively capture a slice of the Asian market, consumer businesses need to understand differences between Western and Asian consumers, as well as the similarities and differences among the latter


Nestled in the heart of Asia with a conducive business environment, Singapore is the ideal location for consumer businesses to manage operations and drive growth strategies regionally.

Consumer businesses can centralise key shared services functions such as finance, human resources and supply chain management in Singapore to enhance efficiency and productivity, and lower operating costs. They will be supported by a strong base of professional services comprising logistics firms, accounting firms, legal firms, human resource firms and business consultancies.

Consumer businesses can also consolidate consumer research and brand charter management activities to be close to important, high-growth markets while also deploying a greater proportion of leadership in Asia to gain a deeper understanding of the region. Rated by the World Bank as the easiest place to do business in 2013, Singapore possesses excellent global connectivity and a multi-ethnic culture, which provide consumer businesses with the pan-Asian perspective required for business growth in Asia. Tapping on Singapore’s consumer insights capabilities, companies can strike a balance between the need for global brand consistency and catering to the diverse needs across the Asian markets.

Consumer Goods Industry

Singapore’s base of integrative research capabilities, ranging from chemistry to food sciences and biomedical sciences to engineering has grown in scope over recent years. Coupled with a strong talent base built up from the local universities and polytechnics, consumer businesses can synergise the wide-ranging capabilities across 14 national research institutes and conduct in-depth scientific R&D for nutrition, as well as skin and hair care.

Building upon this is the push to establish Singapore as the region’s consumer insights hub. To this end, the S$77 million Institute on Asian Consumer Insight was officially launched in March 2012 with the aim of being the thought-leader in understanding pan-Asian consumer needs and preferences. It will conduct research and education programmes that will help consumer businesses innovate brands and products that meet the aspirations of consumers across Asia.

The presence of key partners such as the strong base of the top five flavours and fragrances houses also play an integral role in formulating and perfecting the next consumer product for Asia. Recognising the need for Asia-specific innovations, multi-national corporations (MNCs) such as Nestlé,Procter & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson, have set up R&D centres in Singapore.


Today, Singapore offers the best intellectual property protection in Asia (The Global Competitiveness Report 2012, World Economic Forum) and is also a signatory to major Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) conventions and treaties. Recognising this favourable environment, World Sport Group, Asia’s leading sports management company has its global headquarters in Singapore managing key sports rights of all Asian Football Confederation events.


Consumer goods companies can access, recruit, develop and deploy the requisite talent in Singapore to helm and run operations in Asia. The established ecosystem of local and international business schools provides a constant supply of managerial talent that companies can utilise. Additionally, companies can use Singapore as a home for talent development, developing in-house executive courses or training programmes for employees. Singapore’s Human Capital Leadership Institute can facilitate the process by providing insights into Asian organisational cultures and bringing together the best-in-class faculty members to lead the programmes. In 2013, for example, Unilever established Four Acres Singapore, its first global leadership development centre outside of the UK. Through Four Acres Singapore, Unilever will work with human capital consultancies, other companies and top academics from local and foreign Institutes of higher learning (e.g. INSEAD and Singapore Management University) to develop and conduct programs in Singapore that will train 900 participants annually, and build a pipeline of global leaders with a pan-Asian perspective.

Asian Consumer Behaviour Insights


Paul Bennet CEO of IDEO

Paul Bennet, Chief creative officer, IDEO

Paul Bennett grew up in Singapore and came back after a stint as art director of Bloomingdale’s in the US and New York based branding agency nickandpaul (which he co-founded), to launch design firm IDEO’s Asia outposts (the others are in Tokyo, Shanghai and Mumbai).

In Singapore, IDEO works with clients such as Changi Hospital where it introduced L-shaped slots in desks for canes.

The idea is for small changes to make a big difference. “Singapore is an incredibly optimistic place. It was founded on the belief that change is possible. Singapore has continued to pioneer and change its perspective,” Bennett says.

Next up Bennett is rolling out OpenIDEO – a forum where anyone can pitch in with ideas for the social good. “There is a real interest in this kind of participatory innovation and contribution in Singapore,” Bennett says.

Leung Cheong-Tai Nielsen market research firm

Leung Cheong-Tai, President Southeast Asia, North Asia, and Pacific (SEANAP) Nielsen

Armed with degrees in computer science and electrical engineering as well as experience developing GE Money’s Asia-wide IT infrastructure, Leung Cheong-Tai joined global market research firm Nielsen in 2008. From Singapore, she oversees the foray into mapping consumer behaviour in Southeast Asia, North Asia and Pacific region. It’s good to be based next door to the global companies that have set up headquarters in Singapore.

Locally, Nielsen launched a lab designed for companies wanting to gain an insight into the Asian consumer. “We are on the brink of a once in a lifetime opportunity to help our clients win,” she says. “Over the next 20 years we will have one billion consumers joining the ranks of the middle class in Asia. They’ll be in the driver’s seat in terms of how, what and where they consume goods and services.”

Ian Swanson Creative Director at Nice

Ian Swanson, Creative Director, Nice Ltd

Ian Swanson, an industrial design graduate from the Savannah College of Art & Design in the US, joined creative agency NiCE Ltd at its New York office. Specialising in the fragrance and luxury goods market, Swanson was a perfect match for NiCE, which works extensively with beauty brands, including SK II and Lab Series, as well as global giants such as Procter & Gamble. Together with the agency’s founder Davide Nicosia, Swanson set up NiCE’s Singapore office – the company’s first Asia base – in 2008.

Today, NiCE has 22 staff from 11 countries in Singapore and offices in Bangkok and Tokyo. “With such a diverse team of multidisciplinary creatives we can ensure every client and every project has not only a global perspective but also those essential local insights,” Swanson explains. Helping global clients better understand Asian luxury consumer demand lies at the heart of everything NiCE does in Singapore. “The trust that Singapore has built with companies is a critical element for Singapore to become a true leader in innovation. Singaporeans have an amazing vision for what they, as a nation, want to become – a leader in design and innovation globally,” Swanson says. One of his favourite projects in Singapore to date is tweaking the packaging for Tiger Balm and making the ubiquitous Singaporean-made pain relief salve more accessible to younger consumers.


AmorePacific Cosmetics Consumer Goods

AmorePacific Cosmetics

With its sun block and hydrating qualities, the Laneige Snow BB Soothing Cushion is very much a product designed for humid Southeast Asia. That’s why Korean cosmetics firm AmorePacific chose to create it in its Singapore Research & Innovation Center. Some reviewers claim the cushion helps cool the skin by up to 3C. “If we can create the products that can fulfil the needs of our customer in Singapore we can roll out these products to neighbouring countries as well,” says Ed Lee, AmorePacific’s ASEAN managing director. Lee’s firm hopes to launch a Singapore-originated product in the next few years. “We are ready to take on the challenge of making about three billion Asians’ dreams of beauty come true,” he says. “Singapore will play a key role in achieving this vision.”

Givaudan Consumer Products

Flavour and fragrance

Almost everything you eat or smell will have a touch of Givaudan in it. Not that you’ll know: consumer products usually contain less than 0.5 per cent of the world’s largest flavour and fragrance company’s creations. That doesn’t make them any less important. The almost 500-strong team of flavourists, perfumers, commercial and operations staff at the Singapore Creative Centre and Manufacturing Facility produce thousands of smells and tastes each year that end up in numerous consumer products.

One reason behind Givaudan’s success is its familiarity with the region. Its staff can tell you that Indonesian consumers mean tangerines when they refer to oranges and that customers in Manila prefer a specific type of mango. “Our products are influenced by a rich heritage of culture and tradition, so you need to get the flavour right,” says Bernhard Schaufelberger, Givaudan’s Asia Pacific regional technical director. “Singapore’s multi-ethnic society makes it a great test environment for flavours that could work well in the greater Southeast Asian region.” There’s also the city’s status as a key logistics hub. “The whole supply chain functions seamlessly here,” says Carlos Petri, Givaudan’s creative fragrance director Asia Pacific, referring to the importance of moving raw materials quickly so that his company’s products are shipped to customers on time. “That’s why ‘made in Singapore’ is a quality seal of approval.”


Asian Consumer Insight (ACI)

Institute on Asian Consumer Insight

The Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI) is a world-class, one-of-its-kind, national-level research institute focused on Asian consumers. Started as an initiative of the Singapore Economic Development Board in 2011, ACI serves as a bridge between academia and industry, and its mission is to help companies grow their business in Asia based on profound market and consumer insights gathered through state-of-the-art research methodologies.

ACI conducts extensive research and help companies to develop customer-focused strategies based on insights about Asian consumers. Catered to each company’s needs, ACI recognizes the importance of understanding Asian consumers and the Asian market, and strives to provide relevant and impactful information to aid businesses understand Asian consumers and to create value in the areas of innovation, branding, new-markets development and new media initiatives that will impact your business results. ACI partners with significant industry players from the business community to conduct joint projects and forms academic partnerships for combined research.

For more information about ACI, and upcoming seminars and events, please visit

Visit the following link to understand more about consumer business industry in Singapore

In association with Monocle, EDB brings to you a selection of people, places and products that make Singapore a nation that is punching far above its weight despite its relatively compact size and population (content first published in Monocle).


Mr CHAN Ih-Ming

Mr CHAN Ih-Ming

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