W Power 2024

SATS Group invests SG$61 million in new facility to serve ready-to-eat market

The international foods solutions facility in Bengaluru to serve as the central kitchen for the company's newly launched RTE vertical in India

Naini Thaker
Published: Mar 15, 2024 05:38:04 PM IST
Updated: Mar 15, 2024 05:54:29 PM IST

SATS Group invests SG million in new facility to serve ready-to-eat marketThe facility, which is close to the Kempegowda International Airport and spread over 221,000 sq. ft, will be the central kitchen for the company’s newly launched ready-to-eat (RTE) vertical in India.

On Friday, SATS Food Solutions India (SFSI), a wholly owned subsidiary of SATS Ltd (SATS) opened its largest international food solutions facility in Bengaluru, India. The facility, which is close to the Kempegowda International Airport and spread over 221,000 sq. ft, will be the central kitchen for the company’s newly launched ready-to-eat (RTE) vertical in India. “We have found India’s rich culture and its dynamic growth as a huge opportunity,” says Stanley Goh, CEO, SATS Food Solutions. The group has invested SG$61 million (Rs 378 crore) into setting up this new facility.

The facility has state-of-the-art machinery and equipment brought in from across the world, that can automate production of everything from croissants and cupcakes to curries and chapatis. From raw materials being brought in, to the frozen goods being ready—the entire supply chain is powered by Internet-of-things (IoT) sensors, with just the right amount of human intervention.

It has a capacity to supply up to 40,000 kg of ready-to-eat food products per day to institutional catering, private labelling, and commercial clients, including large-scale food retailers, restaurants, cloud kitchens, cafes, and lounges in India, and international markets.

Globally, the company is known for its food solutions business, including airline catering. In April 2023, SATS Group completed its acquisition of Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), the world’s largest air cargo logistics provider and one of the leading providers of ground handling services. In India, SATS has been working for 20 years with joint venture partners such as TajSATS and AISATS (AirIndia-SATS).

 Potential for the ready-to-eat market

Goh claims there is a massive growth potential for ready-to-eat meals in India, owing to changing lifestyles, urbanisation, and rising disposable income. A SATS Projects Sizing study values sales for ready meals in India at US$52 billion in 2023 which will reach US$64 billion by 2026. Between 2021 and 2026, the value will expand at a rate of 45 percent. According to the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MOFPI) in India, 34 percent of the Indian population, driven by young consumers and millennials, will consume more RTE meals by 2028. The global demand for Indian RTE food products is also outpacing the domestic demand. 

This new facility is expected to add to its existing large-scale food facilities in Singapore, China, Japan and Thailand. “The SATS Group board approved this project in May 2020, right around the pandemic, when companies weren’t sure of revenues coming in. So that is the kind of confidence we’ve had in the Indian market,” says Sagar Dighe, director and CEO, SATS Food Solutions India. Now, with companies coming out of Covid-19 there is added pressure for profitability, and Dighe says, “We feel we can help companies across sectors in improving their margins via our ready-to-eat solutions.”

With this large central kitchen serving a wide variety of Indian cuisines, Goh feels there is a huge scope to grow in the exports segment as well. “Replicating this capability from Singapore to India and leveraging knowledge gained from long-standing joint ventures with our aviation-centric partners in India, the SFSI team will use SATS’ domain knowledge in product design, food technology, research and development, and packaging innovation to distribute and export the food products produced from the India central kitchen for India and international markets,” adds Goh. 

Even before beginning operations, Swiggy is one of the first brands to have partnered with SFSI for its in-house QSR brands. “We believe that SFSI holds tremendous promise to become a frontrunner in large-scale food production in India. Their culinary expertise and food technology know-how ensures food safety, appearance, nutrition and taste and aligns with our own commitment to deliver the best value to our customers,” says Rohit Kapoor, CEO, food marketplace, Swiggy.

Also read: Need to build industrial resilience with supply chain observatories

While SATS is solving for high quality RTE food in large capacities, cold chain remains a challenge for most of their clients. “With our end-to-end solutions, we are hoping to cater to this issue as well. That is also our core difference, and why our partners choose us,” adds Goh. But when it comes to distribution, SFSI has tied up with reputed cold chain partners in India. From the time the food packets leave the facility—when it is at a minimum of minus 20 degrees—till the time it is delivered to the customer, at every hour SFSI is notified of the food temperature.

Innovation and tech-driven disruption

The company is known for its culinary expertise and using proven food technologies to deliver nutritious and safe food offerings. “Food safety, integrity and quality is paramount in SATS kitchens,” explains Dighe. SFSI has attained the India quality licence—FSSAI. International certifications such as FDA, CFIA, FSSC22000 Food Safety Management system (FSMS) and Medina are now being completed to ensure consistency with its other kitchens.

SATS Group invests SG million in new facility to serve ready-to-eat marketFood safety, integrity and quality is paramount in all SATS kitchens

“We also use industry-proven technologies such as the Internet-of-things (IoT) to enable our teams enhance and monitor kitchen efficiencies while ensuring food safety and quality meet the highest standards,” said Sagar. 

For instance, IoT sensors and sensor-based lighting systems have been installed at the facility for management to monitor and conserve energy usage in real time. These IoT-powered sensors also monitor the facility’s ambient temperature, humidity, air quality and utilities in the facility such as cold stores and cooking stations, to ensure food integrity and safety. Furthermore, it also allows pre-programmed cooking processes to be monitored via live dashboards, with alerts automatically triggered if cooking timings and temperature settings deviate from pre-set recipes.

 “The food facility also uses technology to predict risks, improve traceability and transparency of key product components, and increase data reliability,” explains Dighe. With this technology, SFSI is creating a digital record of a food product’s journey from farm to table. The kitchen will be able to trace important information such as ingredient sources, harvest dates, transportation methods, and storage conditions, ensuring food security. The entire facility has also been built keeping sustainable practices in mind, including energy efficiency, water conservation and indoor air quality among others, to reduce the carbon footprint.

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