Penny Fang Chen Chun, CEO of Sin Hin Frozen Food Pte Ltd, hails from a literary family. Through self-study for civil servant examinations, her father gained employment in the government sector; and her younger brother who was awarded the India President Award graduated with a doctorate from Qing Hua University and is currently teaching at the Taiwan Education University. Despite this literary family reputation, Penny always had an entrepreneurial ambition. In her younger days, with the advice from her father, she followed his footsteps and became a civil servant. But this has never stopped her from fulfilling her dream –to the day she eventually started her own business. In the next couple of decades, she successfully garnered a substantial market share in the frozen seafood segment in South East Asia.
Today, Sin Hin Frozen Food Ptd Ltd has become a reputable frozen seafood import and export company, and a sole distributor of prawn products from Thailand frozen food manufacturer, CP.
Penny has a rather masculine Chinese name despite her feminine demeanor. Nevertheless, this fully annotates a Chinese saying – a lady with a masculine spirit. In 1983, Penny took the company she started single-handedly and ventured into the frozen food industry. Within a short period of time, the company became the first to be awarded a license from the AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) for the import and export of frozen frog legs. In 1996, Penny changed the company name to Sin Hin, and this marked the expansion of the business beyond the Singapore market as a worldwide importer exporter.
Of Sin Hin Frozen Food star products, the “Mei Ren Xia” (frozen cooked prawns) has to be the highlight. Through extensive research and development, this product is the essence of Penny’s years of experience in seafood, together with the collaboration of CP Malaysia. To ensure prime quality of the prawns, live prawns are frozen in a split-second and the whole process from the frozen state to packaging takes only 30 minutes. The consumption of the “Mei Ren Xia” is very simple as no cooking is required. All you need to dois defrost it, and it is ready to be served. Due to its popularity in the market, in 2002, Penny collaborated with the supplier to setup the first prawn farm in Indonesia. The 1,000 hectare farm boasts 10 live prawn farming ponds. The technologies used in freshwater prawn farming are basically the same as in marine shrimp farming. Hatcheries produce post larvae, which then are raised and acclimated in nurseries before being transferred into grow-out ponds, where the prawns are then fed and grown until they reach marketable size. This whole process is wholly managed by Sin Hin, hence, the quantity and quality is hundred percent controlled. The high quality of “Mei Ren Xia” has garnered recognition in the market, and is the talk of the town.
The road to success for“Mei Ren Xia” was an arduous one. In the eyes of Singapore’s food industry owners, quality is of upmost importance. Hence, there is never any room for negotiation when it comes to serving live prawns. Upon the sight of frozen prawns, the immediate response was the same all over – it’s either live prawns or nothing! Despite the initial setbacks and multiple rejections, the desire to convince and educate the market to accept her product was never dampened. Penny strongly believes in the quality of her prawns because she is directly involved in the whole process from breeding, freezing, packaging to storage to ensure that nothing is ever compromised. These processes are under the strict management and control of the company. Traditionally, restaurants use live prawns that were soaked in water prior to cooking it; a process that resulted in a loss of up to 8% in size and weight of the prawns. With the convenience and ease of serving these high quality prawns, the restaurants’ food wastage will be hugely reduced, and productivity greatly increased.Penny further explains that these are live prawns that are rapidly frozen without going through soaking,making them perfectly consumable upon defrost. Hence, there was a huge potential in the market for “Mei Ren Xia”.
Her persistence, trials and errors, and relentless efforts to convince the restaurateurs finally paid off. “Mei Ren Xia” rose up the ranks to become a staple in the menus of restaurants. The prawns were supplied to various buffet hotels and restaurants, wholesalers, and exporters. The average annual sales quantity can go up to a thousand tons, with daily averages of up to 2,739 kilograms. This translates to, at least, 1,370 kilograms of “Mei Ren Xia” being consumed during lunch and dinner each day. The astonishing success of this product came as a surprise to the seafood industry in Singapore, and it also disrupted the traditionaluse of live prawns in the food & beverage industry.
Sin Hin continues to grow from strength to strength with the gradual expansion across the market. Currently, other than supplying to retailers, restaurants and wholesalers, Sin Hin has made headway into the kitchens and dining rooms of consumers through home delivery via e-commerce.
Sin Hin Frozen Food Pte Ltd has an extensive variety of frozen seafood products ranging from the famous “Mei Ren Xia” (prawns), Canadian scallops, and Taiwanese fish balls with roe, fish ball with prawns, and squid balls, to abalone. Riding on the wave of the success of “Mei Ren Xia”, Penny set her sights on bringing on board Taiwanese fish balls with roe and fish balls with prawns in an attempt to introduce them to the Singapore market. In the beginning, it wasn’t a bed of roses trying to introduce Taiwanese style fish balls as Singaporeanpalates were accustomed to Cantonese styled fish balls, and were hence, totally unfamiliar with Taiwanese fish balls. In the very first year of importing these fish balls, the initial inventory was stored in the warehouse for almost half a year. Not a single pack was sold. The staff in the company was starting to wonder how this would go down as time passes. Penny faced many rejections as she tried to convince supermarkets to sell the Taiwanese fish balls with roe. Nevertheless, with the strong conviction she had in the quality of the products, she continued to market it to major supermarkets. She finally succeeded in convincing them and became the sole supplier. Today, the range of Taiwanese fish balls with roe and fish balls with prawns have become a hot seller in supermarkets.
When it comes to the selection of products, Penny has her own logic to it. In essence, the product has to be original and unique, and would not be easily replicated in the market. It might sound simple, but it is far from easy to execute. However, due to her entrepreneurial acumen, she has established herself in a league of her own within the frozen seafood industry over the last three decades. She has always been a studious person since young, but it was managing a business that gave her a sense of achievement and satisfaction. With the constant growth of the business, she is confronted a common issue that most companies face; talent retention and the responsibility of passing on the business to the next generation. Sin Hin’s business territory spreads across Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in South East Asia. To manage the expanding business singlehandedly was not feasible in the long run as a shortage of manpower and capital investments were the two main obstacles. But fortunately, with the help of Taiwanese investors who held her abilities in high regard, she was able to execute numerous investments and facilitate the expansion of the business. Most importantly, these foreign investments and collaborations provided an abundant source of talents.
There was a period of time when Taiwanese products were faced with quality issue, and Penny lamented about how these unscrupulous businessmen have yet again tarnished Taiwan’s reputation as a fine culinary country. This issue added on to the constant struggles that food importers face in terms of cost and quality. It took time to see the results from the products that she chooses to import. There were times when customers had absolutely no interest, regardless of the amount of effort spent introducing these fine products to them. Giving up and going with the flow seemed to be the best option at that point, but her never-say-die attitude would not allow her to throw in the towel just like that. Each time she was confronted with obstacles, she kept motivating herself to keep going. With this positive mindset, she found dependable business partners; one of them being CP Malaysia where “Mei Ren Xia” was born. Currently, Sin Hin is in discussion with two well-known Taiwanese companies Da Chan (大成集團) and TSC (崇越科技) for collaboration with Indonesia to develop new products. The main reason TSC is exploring the food industry, is because the CEO admits, “I live to eat but I fear death”. In short, that food safety is of utmost importance, and once compromised, it could spell disaster. Penny believes strongly in this, and echoes the importance of food integrity and ethicsto her fellow businessmen in the food industry. Persistence may not be easy, but as long as it is the right thing to do, you should persist!
Her goals are to become a leader in the frozen food industry and the OEM for global seafood exporters. Penny has a lot of ambition for Sin Hin and she strives to bring in even more fine products to the market beyond Singapore and South East Asia. In March 2015, Penny was invited by TAITRA (Taiwan External Trade Development Council) to attend the Global Procurement Event, and she hopes to import more competitive products from Taiwan through this network.
Penny is confident that the collaboration with Taiwanese technologies companies to fine-tune the food processing process will be a breakthrough and will be something to look forward to in the near future.
Translated By Audrey Goh