Milk, machines and e-commerce wars

Unhappiness over the rising cost of infant formula milk prompted a series of government measures to address the issue.

In March, The Straits Times reported that the average price of a 900g tin of infant milk powder in Singapore had soared 120 per cent over the last decade to $56.06, making it among the most expensive in the world.

In May, a report released by the Competition Commission of Singapore flagged aggressive marketing methods by six major manufacturers, and the Government vowed to encourage greater price competition, among other efforts.

At least 24 new formula milk products have since entered the local market, while plans are in place to ban health claims and idealised images on infant formula labels.

Clusters of vending machines dispensing everything from hot meals to flowers to gardening kits have been popping up in housing estates, malls and MRT stations this year.

Some are found in unmanned convenience stores and cafes, serving up fresh fare 24/7 and replacing hotel lobby gift shops and void deck shops in the heartland.

The shift towards automation is backed by a government push to make the retail and food service sectors more manpower-lean in a tight labour market.

American e-commerce giant Amazon made its long-awaited debut in Singapore in July, with the launch of its Prime Now fast delivery service, which offers tens of thousands of products through its mobile app.

The American firm’s first foray into South-east Asia set the stage for a clash with Chinese tech giant Alibaba, which controls Lazada.

Lazada, the region’s largest e-commerce site, launched its own LiveUp membership programme in April in anticipation of Amazon’s entry into Singapore.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based online shopping platform ezbuy ended its buy-for-me service with e-commerce marketplace Taobao this month after a spat with its parent company, Alibaba.


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