KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Food Manufacturing Group of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM-Mafmag) is optimistic that 2018 is shaping up to be a better year for the food and beverage (F&B) sector, with expectation of at least a 10% growth in sales year on year. Its chairman Datuk L. Krishnan said this year, it has seen the ringgit strengthen with some improvement in consumer sentiment despite continued cost of living pressures. “Despite higher raw material prices, our members are focused on internal efficiency, diligent cost management and innovation for long term growth,” he said at a media luncheon today. Established in 1984, FMM-Mafmag represents over 78 member companies from the F&B sector. The F&B manufacturing sector, which includes the likes of Nestle and Fraser & Neave, recorded sales of RM43.87 billion in 2017 compared with RM39.60 billion in 2016, translating to a 10.77% growth. Krishnan said this came below its expectation of 20% growth. He said 2017 was a challenging year for the F&B sector in Malaysia, having to deal with rising commodity prices, currency fluctuations, weaker consumer sentiment and intense price competition. “Food companies face a challenging and volatile environment. Issues such as the need to understand changing consumer needs and shopping behaviour, innovate effectively and put goods on the shelf at a price that works for producers, manufacturers and consumers continue to rise in today’s market. Ongoing commodity price volatility, fluctuating exchange rates and regulatory environments, makes decision-making complex.” About 62,509 employees were engaged in this manufacturing industry in 2017, a 3.04% jump from 60,663 employees in 2016. As an industry group, FMM-Mafmag believes that public-private partnerships are vital in enabling growth and development of the F&B sector in Malaysia. “We are committed to using the power of partnership to launch sustainable multi-stakeholder efforts to improve diet and address obesity and non-communicable diseases in Malaysia. “Our members engage with stakeholders, including public authorities and academia, on important issues to tackle them together and to work towards positive outcomes for both business and society,” said Krishnan.