Richard Lian - Business Unit Leader Technical Development - Interfood Singapore

There is no better motivator than to have a job doing the things you love.

Hi Richard, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Richard Lian, I am 35 years old and I work as a Business Unit Leader Technical Development at Interfood Singapore. I was born in Malaysia and I moved to Melbourne, Australia after high school. I have a Food Science & Business background and I’ve spent most of my career in Melbourne before moving to Singapore. I started my career in Quality Assurance for about 5 years, followed by Technical / R&D for the subsequent 10 years.

What was your motivation to start a job at Interfood?
Coming from a R&D background, admittedly I was originally hesitant on how much “Technical” expertise a dairy trading company would need. Today I can say that I am glad to be proven wrong; there is so much technical scope because you get to work with R&D teams from many different companies.

Since I had a part scientific and a part business education, the role was perfectly in line with my core interests. There’s no better motivator than to have job doing the things you love.

Another big factor that motivated me to join was the people and culture. Having spent most of my career in Australia, it was also important for me that the organisational culture was a fit. After five interviews/conversations with different people from Interfood, I was already convinced that it was!

Dairy samples

Since you’re working for Interfood for almost two years, what’s your favorite thing about Interfood?
Our Interfood Singapore hub has quite a young dynamic team. Since many of us are like-minded and have a good cultural fit, work efficiency is fairly high. My favorite thing is the people, especially where open and direct communication is valued.

About your job at Interfood, what does your average working week look like?
My portfolio is split between Technical Projects & Quality Assurance. For technical projects, often I have to travel overseas to meet customers or producers, building relationships and collaborating on projects. Between 50% to 75% of my monthly work involves some form of travelling, with different Commercial Managers to various countries.

Since destinations are mostly far away and we have to cover huge distances, travelling by plane is one of the most convenient ways from Singapore. I have a really cool video log about my travels with Interfood so far. It really gives a sense of all the customers and producers I’ve visited during all of those trips.

What do you like the most about your job?
There are many technical challenges encountered by the dairy community and the best thing is that all these challenges are very diverse. These new challenges give me lots of energy. Just to be clear; by ‘challenges’ I mean technical projects, not necessarily ‘challenging products ‘.

One day may be about solving protein stability challenges, the next may be about shelf life or about developing a new powder for specific customer applications. With each customer’s R&D success, it’s quite gratifying to see our Commercial Managers secure new business.

As part of frequent travel and what I also like about my job is that I get to meet many new people and experience many different cultures.

How about your work-life balance?
We have a wonderful team which supports work-life balance and this flexibility is appreciated especially because we work in a global business environment. There are occasional off-hours conference calls, which are easy when between Singapore and Europe, but a little challenging if you are trying to reach the US time zone.

So far my work-life balance has been quite good!

Could you tell us more about Dairy Value Engineering or Technical Development, especially for milk powders?
Most of what we do involves matching customer and producer requirements. We have very clear strategic plans with Dairy Value Engineering for milk powders, segmented into Commodities, Low Spores, Infant, Proteins and Whey.

Examples of technical development for milk powders include:

  • Collaboration with producers to develop Low Thermophilic Spore milk powders
  • Infant Grade Milk Powders
  • Growing Up Milk & Senior Nutrition
  • Protein fractions such as WPI/WPC or Lactoferrin
  • Milk powder shelf life stability, such as relating to lactose crystallization
  • Powder rheology & particle science.

Most of the time our APAC hub has between 50 to 100 active projects which require varying degrees of Technical & QA involvement. We have many ambitious Commercial Managers pursuing new opportunities and Dairy Value Engineering supports turning those opportunities into realized business.

How do you see the future of Dairy Value Engineering at Interfood Singapore?
Unlike in US, Europe or Oceania, dairy expertise is in somewhat short supply in Asia. Businesses tend to be more receptive towards innovation and renovation support that Interfood can offer. I believe DVE will play a bigger role in the years to come in unlocking Interfood Singapore’s growth potential. This year alone we have seen many successes in new business and opportunities.

Our ‘Low Spore’ category is a particular call out; it has been one of our main focus points in 2019 and already we see very significant growth from ‘local stars’ and multinationals in our region. I see DVE at Interfood APAC having a bright future; our hub’s success is just the beginning, there is still so much more we can do in the infant/seniors nutrition and proteins space, and of course in the Chinese market. Without a doubt our DVE team will expand to support Interfood’s organic growth ambitions.

Technical Development Lead

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