The needs of consumers are shifting, and this is especially evident in the global food industry. While food security and under-nutrition remain a challenge for some countries, growing affluence in developed economies and emerging markets has led to increased expectations for taste, variety and convenience of food.
In Asia, there is a growing middle class of consumers who have increasingly disposable incomes but also ageing rapidly. Some companies have responded by creating products tailored to the needs of the elderly—such as developing a range of texture-modified ready-to-eat meals in local flavours suitable for seniors who have difficulty swallowing their food.
Mr Chee Hong Tat, Singapore’s Minister of State for Health said that lifestyles and eating habits of consumers are changing, leading to higher demand for packaged and convenience meals, these shifts present major opportunities for the food industry to develop new products. “Building on Singapore’s trusted brand for quality and safety, there is potential for Singapore food products to be exported overseas.”
Diabetes: A Global Problem Demanding A Localised Solution
There is currently an estimated 400 million people having the disease worldwide and 60 percent of the world’s diabetic population is in Asia. In Singapore, more than 400,000 are diabetic and this number is projected to exceed one million by 2050 if current trends continue. One of the solutions to reduce diabetes problem is through healthier food and healthier ingredients.
While Singapore’s obesity rate is lower than countries like UK and Australia, it has a higher diabetes prevalence rate compared to their western counterparts as the bulk of their diet consists of carbohydrates. The vast majority of these are highly refined staples such as white rice and noodles made from refined flour, contributing to the high rate of diabetes.
Governments across Asia are taking action, from regulatory measures to educational efforts such as nutrition labelling and public campaigns. In Singapore, the Minister for Health has declared a “War on Diabetes” and laid out a multi-year strategy to combat this chronic disease.
Singapore Supports Food Industry
The Singapore government will support and work with the food industry in the development of healthier products, by fostering a supportive regulatory environment to encourage experimentation, and helping companies to use Singapore as their headquarters and launch pad to access other Asian markets.
The Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme was also launched by the government last year; it will invest S$20 million (US$14.3 million) over the next three years to support food manufacturers in creating healthier staple food ingredients such as wholegrain rice, wholegrain noodles and healthier cooking oils.