Getting a taste of food vending business

Students work with industry to devise recipes, upgrade machines

What goes into developing sauces for noodle dishes that are sold in vending machines?

A group of students is finding out.

Students at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) will now be given a platform to research and market food recipes, and to come up with upgrades for existing food vending machines.

This is made possible by a new collaboration announced yesterday between ITE College East, vending-machine maker FastFlex, and seven other industry partners such as food court operator Koufu and DokiDoki, which makes fruit syrup.

The collaboration is projected to involve 80 students.

Said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann at the launch: "To further unlock the potential of the ready-meals market, businesses need to acquire knowledge about the latest technologies and logistics of vending.

"They also need the skills to develop new recipes that taste great and last long, not just on the lab bench, but also in mass production."

Students in the development stagewill be involved in creating recipes and new food vending technologies which may be introduced to the market.

Said FastFlex chief executive officer Dominic Ng: "I feel there is great potential in working with ITE in many areas that give students a learning opportunity closer to the real world."

For the past six months, students have, in partnership with Hiap Giap Food Manufacture which makes noodles, come up with three sauces. They are wanton noodle sauce, zha jiang noodle sauce and special spicy sauce.

They will soon move on to do research on shelf life and food quality to optimise their noodle dishes for sale in vending machines.

Ms Teo Jia Min, 23, a first-year ITE student, hopes to see the sauces they developed used in noodle dishes and sold in vending machines soon.

"Japan has vending machines with ramen and curry rice," she said.

"Maybe we can create one with a Singaporean taste."

These projects are worked into the school curriculum and offer internship opportunities.

Students in courses like applied food science and mechanical engineering have the option of engaging in these partnerships.

"We hope to rope in more students to front their own projects, as well as for more industry partners to come on board," said Ms Lin Zhiyin, 36, senior lecturer for applied food science.

She also mentored another group of students who created low-sugar gelato flavours.