"We value the depth of Singapore’s high-tech ecosystem and the breadth and diversity of manufacturing industries in the surrounding countries."

Can you provide a background of Behn Meyer in Singapore?

Behn Meyer was founded in Singapore and is the oldest German company in the country. Though our footprint is more global nowadays, our DNA is well-rooted in Singapore and Southeast Asia. We have evolved from a traditional trading company to a regional distribution house and, over the last 15 years, into an integrated life sciences and chemicals group, after investing in our own production and R&D facilities. Likewise, Singapore underwent a transformation journey in the past decades, growing from a manufacturing base into a logistics and financial hub and the smart city that it is today. We will continue to advance on this trajectory along with the city state.

How do you evaluate opportunities in Southeast Asia?

Our business has moved into the other ASEAN markets, where we invested in manufacturing and distribution infrastructure and expanded our regional application centres. Yet, Singapore remains a very valuable R&D hub, offering high-value jobs and a ramp for new technologies to be successfully piloted and launched. We value the depth of Singapore’s high-tech ecosystem and the breadth and diversity of manufacturing industries in the surrounding countries. It is this combination that makes the ASEAN region so dynamic and spurs its economic development.

Could you share more about Behn Meyer’s key areas of investment for 2021?

Singapore is the hub for the region’s digital economy and we are observing the tech scene closely. E-commerce applications are vital for our distribution business and we are looking for investments in this field. There is also a thriving Agri-Food cluster emerging in Singapore of which we want to be part. The country has been pushing to become more self-sufficient, whether it comes to energy, water, but also food, through initiatives like the “30 by 30” vision in food production (to supply 30% of the country’s nutritional needs locally by 2030). Behn Meyer’s business units Agricare and Ingredients focus on the complete agriculture-feed-food value chain and we are actively inviting start-ups in AgTech and alternative protein technology to reach out to us for partnerships and equity investment. One of our future projects will produce sustainable food ingredients based on vegetable fibers and plant protein. Singapore just approved lab-grown meat for sale and we believe that cultured cell protein could indeed be part of novel ingredients to replace meat in everyday food applications. On this end, again, we are looking to partner with young and agile companies to develop solutions for the growing demand for meat and seafood alternatives.

How have Behn Meyer’s different business segments behaved in 2020?

Despite the lockdowns in almost all countries, the group yielded stronger results in 2020 compared to the previous year. Individual business units were impacted quite differently. The polymers business unit, for instance, suffered from the slowdown of the automotive industries worldwide. While the tire production seems to recover, there are overarching shifts with e-mobility, such as fewer rubber joints and hoses used in electric motors, so we are adapting to this trend. The latex business, on the other hand, had a strong year thanks to high demand for medical gloves amidst the pandemic. The coatings business took a dip around May 2020 due to customers’ plant shutdowns but recovered faster than expected in Q3 and Q4. Our Agricare and Ingredients business units showed robust growth, especially food ingredients and personal care, the latter propelled by soaring demand for hygiene and disinfection solutions.

How do you see the uptake of digital platforms for chemical distributors?

During the pandemic we saw that customers still prefer having a real person on the other side of the line, instead of anonymous transactions. The B2C e-commerce got a tremendous boost last year for obvious reasons but I do not see B2B platforms as disruptive as some say in our highly regulated chemical sector. Petrochemicals are probably more standardized, inviting for online trading; the highly service intensive specialty chemicals business requires a more tailored approach. We see digital platforms as additional channels, not alternative ones. Undeniably, digitalization is here to stay and Behn Meyer is investing in process automation, digital business models and solutions to improve customer’s buying experiences, like track and trace, stock transparency and 1-click ordering.

What is your final message?

As a company, we are committed to the UN sustainable development goals, we are certified with EcoVadis, and pledge to be better every year. We take responsibility for our environmental and social impact and will continue to digitize our business and build a customer-centric company.