Meet our alumni
Mr Tan Wang Cheow
Tan Wang Cheow graduated in 1981 with a Bachelor of Accountancy from the National University of Singapore and is the Chairman and Managing Director of Food Empire Holdings Ltd, a food and beverage manufacturing company that boasts over 400 units of products under its name and a global distribution network that spans across 69 countries. The Group has 18 offices (representative and liaison) – Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Poland, Turkey, Belgium, Bahrain, Mongolia and Vietnam.
Since its listing in April 2000, Wang Cheow has been providing leadership to the Company. At the same time, he is responsible for formulating strategies with regards to brand championship, new business opportunities, market development and product innovation.
The company flagship brand, MacCoffee™ remains a household favourite in many countries especially Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and several CIS countries, showing positive and strong brand equity. Food Empire has been continually building on its reputation for its impressive portfolio of quality brands that have long been established as household names if not already a favourite to people of all ages, across the lands. Its current portfolio of brands includes: MacChocolateTM, MacTea, Klassno, FesAroma, OrienBites, MacCandy, Zinties, Kracks, Melosa, and Petrovskaya Sloboda. Food Empire also exports its products to countries in the following regions: Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Australasia, Southeast Asia, Middle East, IndoChina and North America, anchoring on its extensive and expansive global network.
So how did this home-grown mogul become one of the largest convenience food purveyors to some of the world’s least likely markets? In the late 1980s, Wang Cheow was exporting personal computers and peripherals to Eastern Europe and central Asia. During one such trip to Kazakhstan, he brought along a couple of sachets of instant three-in-one coffee. Of an enterprising bent, he interests his business contacts with the mix and sold them on importing it. The first order of 20 containers reached Kazakhstan in 1992.
By 1994 Wang Cheow was ready to exit the low-margins computer export business and launch the MacCoffee brand in Russia. Timing was of the essence as this was a period when foreign instant products and beverages were a novelty, and foreign investments were warmly welcomed as the country geared toward a market economy. By the late 1990s, MacCoffeeTM was on sale at most Russian food kiosks and open-air markets. By the time Nestlé began to promote its three-in-one instant coffee, the Singapore brand had already built a strong position and solid distribution networks in the market.
In 2000, Food Empire was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange and since then, it has won numerous accolades for its unrelenting and entrepreneurial spirit, including being ranked one of “The Most Valuable Singapore Brands” from 2003 to 2006 at the national brand award organised by IE Singapore, MacCoffee was also ranked one of “The Strongest Singapore Brands” and the company was selected by the acclaimed Forbes magazine as one of the “Best under a Billion” companies in Asia in 2007 and 2008.
He travels every other month to new sales territories – from Iran to Uzbekistan and Serbia, works weekends wherever he is and is constantly eyeing on new markets and products. Meantime, Food Empire keeps up demand for MacCoffee in its Slavic markets with eye catching advertisements featuring celebrities or by sponsoring sports events like figure skating, Tien Shan mountain climbing or auto racing. The branding has even won Wang Cheow unexpected fame. “When I visit these markets, people are eager to take pictures with me when they know I am the CEO of MacCoffee” he says.
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