Halal Industry 

Rising demand: For the first time, healthier, organic, halal-certified ‘village’ chicken will hit Singapore shelves

| 24 April, 2019
 Emmy Abdul Alim
Rising demand: For the first time, healthier, organic, halal-certified ‘village’ chicken will hit Singapore shelves
Photo: Aqina Farm's operations manager Oh Wei Chiat stands at the company's booth at trade fair Superfood Asia in Singapore on April 24, 2019. SALAAM GATEWAY/Emmy Abdul Alim

SINGAPORE - They’ll retail for at least twice the regular price, but a Malaysian-headquartered company is confident its halal-certified, organic and ‘Healthier Choice’ ‘kampung’ chicken will sell in Singapore.

Aqina Farm, the brand fronting Aqina Group’s ‘kampung’ chicken, launched its organic range at the end of February and hopes to be in Singapore supermarkets in May or June, operations manager Oh Wei Chiat told Salaam Gateway on Wednesday.

‘Kampung’, or village, chicken, is a breed native to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The chicken has colourful feathers, primarily brown and red, and its meat is leaner and firmer than other chickens. It is sold in shops at a higher price than other breeds.

Aqina’s organic range of kampung chickens will retail for around 100 per cent higher than non-organic regular broiler birds.

“It’s going to sell in the market at 21.90 Singapore dollars ($16) per whole chicken,” said Oh.

“For non-organic, we have sold our chickens in Sheng Siong supermarket for around 10 Singapore dollars,” he added. Sheng Siong is a popular grocery and fresh food retail supermarket in Singapore.

There is no directly similar product to compare Aqina's organic kampung chickens to as it's the first-of-its-kind to be sold in Singapore. 

As a gauge, you can find organic but non-kampung whole chickens from around 11 Singapore dollars in supermarkets, and non-organic, non-kampung whole chickens could retail from around 7 Singapore dollars. 

The premium price for Aqina’s organic range is in line with its higher cost of production. According to Oh, the cost is “at least 50 per cent” higher.

“One of the main costs comes from the feed. In order for us to comply with the 'Healthier Choice’ [certification] the chicken needs to be at a very low level of cholesterol and sodium,” said Oh.

For fresh and frozen meat and poultry, Singapore’s ‘Healthier Choice’ symbol from the Health Promotion Board can only be used if there is no more than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat, and 120 miligrams of sodium per 100 grams of meat.

Cost also goes up as the different corn-based feed for organic kampung chickens impacts their rate of growth.

“Because of the lower cholesterol level of the feed the chickens grow slower, seven to eight days slower, and each day we spend a lot of cost on the feed,” Oh added.

He is optimistic the organic range will appeal to the growing niche of increasingly health-conscious Singapore customers.

According to Oh, the company has conducted market surveys showing that people are interested in healthier choices, lower cholesterol levels in lean meat, and the different texture of kampung chicken.

Aqina’s range of kampung chickens has been awarded a MyOrganic Certificate by Malaysia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

The company also holds the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practice (MyGAP) certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.

The Singapore subsidiary of the Malaysian company has chalked out a marketing strategy that targets more affluent consumers.

“We will be targeting those with higher spending power as they are more health conscious. You can’t expect all consumers to accept your product because of the price issue,” said Oh.

The aim is also to reach younger buyers.

“We are also targeting the younger generation who aims to have healthier lifestyles, and are more health-conscious. So this will be a niche market, actually,” Oh added.

The organic range will first sell in higher-end supermarkets due to its premium price point.

Aqina’s kampung chickens are not completely free-range. According to Oh, the chickens are allowed to move around within covered barns that protect them against contamination from other birds.

MUSLIM MARKET

Aqina’s chickens and processes are certified halal by JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia) in Malaysia and MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) in Singapore.

Oh stresses Aqina’s halal-certified products target all demographics but he believes the organic range will sell faster to non-Muslims in Singapore.

“I think the response will come faster from the non-Muslim market first … I would say it’s because of cultural differences,” said the operations manager.

According to Oh, the Muslim community, who are predominantly ethnic Malays, is not used to eating kampung chicken.

One factor could be that Malays may perceive kampung chicken meat to be too lean for  Malay dishes, such as the popular rendang, which needs longer cooking hours, said Oh.

“We may have to spend some time on consumer education to tell [Malays] that kampung chicken meat is not what they think it is,” Oh said, adding that the company did a lot of food tasting in supermarkets in Malaysia to let customers try the kampung chicken meat to show them it’s not as hard or lean as they think it is.

Aqina is on the lookout for a suitable partner to help it reach the Singapore Muslim customer.

GLOBAL AMBITION

Aqina slaughters around 12,000 chickens a day, or two million birds a year, across fourteen farms in Johor, the Malaysian state that borders Singapore. Only a small fraction of those birds are organic, said Oh.

“Currently, the chickens that we slaughter for organic are only about four to five hundred birds per day,” Oh told Salaam Gateway.

The company currently exports around 70 percent of its total supply to Singapore.

It is eyeing a bigger export market from next year.

“Maybe we will start with Brunei and Dubai, Korea is also interested in our product,” said Oh.

Demand will decide if Aqina sells its regular or organic range outside of Malaysia and Singapore.

“We will try to export our product from Malaysia because the Middle East, like Dubai, are very confident with Malaysia’s halal [standards].”

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