Organic foods are getting more popular in Singapore but are the premium prices valid? The McCance brothers, co-founders of premium organic food supplier The Frank Food Company, think so.
“To be completely honest, I was an organic food sceptic,” says Liam McCance.
Having marketed almost every consumer product under the sun during his 12-year career in ad agencies, Liam has probably seen how some truths are bent to get your attention. Nonetheless, he was encouraged by his wife to look into the organic food industry.
The father of four daughters says: “My wife’s influence, and my brother working in the industry, sparked my interest which has now turned into a passion. Utilising my expertise in marketing and advertising has helped to create a strong platform to grow further interest in the organic industry.”
Liam, and his brother Duncan McCance, started The Frank Food Company, a premium organic food supplier in Singapore. The company is part of their Subscribe to Food portfolio, which also supply meat and wine. Together, the companies support sustainable and organic farming by working with organic-certified farmers in Indonesia’s Central Java region. Produce from the Indonesian farm can be transported to Singaporean clients within a half-day of harvest.
Demand for organic food is at its highest in a decade with popularity soaring, not just for fruits and vegetables but for other groceries as well, seen through the amount of items stocked by supermarkets in Singapore. Plus, more shoppers find organic goods worth paying the premium for. But some researchers and dietitians have said it is no more nutritious than conventional food.
While Liam doesn’t claim that organics are more nutritious than non-organic, he points out how experts say the chemicals used in the production of non-organic food may be harmful to you. Still, are the sky-high prices justifiable for all to switch to organic food?
Liam answers: “We see this premium as being the real cost of food rather than expensive. What consumers need to ask themselves is: what went into producing this food? Were subsidised agriculture products used? And were the farmers paid fairly? There is a great question to ask. It isn't why is organic food expensive, it's why is cheap food cheap?
Demand is also growing because we have better long-term evidence that demonstrates chronic consumption of chemical fertilisers and pesticides are detrimental to our health. This is combined with strong foodie and sustainability movements. Put simply; people care more than ever about what they eat.”
While the Australia-born chaps are creative in their own way, when it comes to making the organic produce truly shine, Liam leaves it to his chef-brother Duncan. “From the age of 10, I grew carrots in the front yard and then cooked them with my mother,” recalls Duncan. “I've been around kitchens ever since.”
Currently based in Ubud Bali, Duncan works closely with farmers across Indonesia to get first-hand knowledge on how to grow the best produce for consumption and the environment.
“The Balinese are always wanting to know more and willing to help,” says Duncan, who’s sustainable cooking ethos has brought him to various continents, from Stockholm to Singapore. “I’ve formed a close relationship with a farmer, even though I am sure he doesn’t understand what I am saying half the time!”
He is the head of food and content for Subscribe to Food and is busy developing content, including short films, new recipes and conducting workshops and training sessions for subscribers interested in organics. “Teaching someone a skill is a beautiful thing especially when you see the enjoyment and passion. The farmers love it when I show them a dish that used their produce too. This definitely keeps me going.”