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Freshening’s second-gen scion Moh Yan Ting on building a wet wipe empire

How the homegrown company Freshening is staying ahead of the competition with its investments into innovation.

The current pandemic might have been a boon for Freshening Industries and its range of disinfectant products. But it wasn’t always the case. In 2003, the SARS outbreak affected the business. “We were producing wet wipes only for the F&B industry, which was greatly affected,” Freshening director Moh Yan Ting says.

The University of Birmingham graduate and second-generation scion joined the family business last year after spending five years in an event management company. But she was already intimately familiar with Freshening, having spent countless hours since young at the warehouse to help with the packing of wet wipes during peak periods.

“We would bring our mattresses and stay overnight, resuming the same routine the next morning. It was tiring but I always look back at those times with fond memories,” Moh shares.

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The F&B industry makes up 50 per cent of Freshening's annual revenue.

The F&B industry makes up 50 per cent of Freshening’s annual revenue.

Founded by her father Albert in 1994, Freshening began as a small shop in Eunos. Although tiny, it introduced the trend of individually wrapped wet wipes in restaurants and bars you see today. Today, Freshening is the largest single sachet wet towel manufacturer in South-east Asia. It supplies wet wipes to over 80 per cent of F&B chains in Singapore and has served over 5,000 global food groups, hotel conglomerates, cruise lines and airlines in over 37 countries to date.

Freshening has also expanded beyond wet wipes, in part thanks to the SARS outbreak that almost crushed them. “My father turned a business crisis into opportunity by producing disinfectant and alcohol wipes for hospitals and healthcare groups. That was how our medical care brand HospiCare started,” says the younger Moh. “It made us realise the importance of preparation and diversification for fresh revenue streams.”

That’s why it launched Zappy, its consumer brand with the red anthropomorphic towel mascot, in 2005 and other in-house brands catering to food service packaging and kitchen hygiene. So, they were prepared when Covid-19 hit.

Freshening has continued building that moat. According to Moh, the company places a huge emphasis on not only R&D and innovation, but speed. It has invested heavily into machinery to raise productivity and efficiency and holds “New Product Development meetings involving team members from different departments”. In these sessions, nothing is off the table. Everyone throws out trends and ideas, no matter how zany, and those that have business potential will go into production.

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“My father turned a business crisis into opportunity by producing disinfectant and alcohol wipes for hospitals and healthcare groups. That was how our medical care brand HospiCare started. It made us realise the importance of preparation and diversification for fresh revenue streams.”

Freshening’s second-gen scion on the importance of being prepared for black swan events

Freshening is also staying ahead of the curve in this climate. It understands that single-use wet wipes are not environmentally friendly. Moh shares that the company is looking at ways to minimise waste in the supply chain process and only works with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) – certified suppliers. Its factory in Hui Zhou has also achieved FSC certification.

“The R&D team is also exploring more sustainable alternative paper types,” says Moh. “We cannot afford to have a wait-and-see attitude and pivot only when something unexpected happens. I am committed to run this company with the same conviction as on the very first day – leading the way towards a cleaner future, one wipe at a time.”

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