Food industry and government efforts to encourage healthier diets in Singapore through product reformulation paying dividends

The Consumer Goods Forum & FIA Health & Wellness Open Session at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore on 12 June 2018

Food Industry Asia (FIA) in partnership with IGD released a report on the reformulation landscape in Singapore on 12 June 2018. Titled ‘Healthier Product Reformulation in Singapore’, the report which was previewed at the Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit surveyed consumers and food businesses to understand behavioural trends and attitudes towards product innovation and reformulation, industry priorities and challenges faced by food companies developing healthier products in Singapore.

The report highlighted that Singaporeans took a proactive role in leading a healthier lifestyle, with 98% of those surveyed saying they were trying to improve their diets, for instance by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and reducing sugar. Nutrition plays a major part in consumer purchases, and 90% of respondents said they looked at nutrition information on packs before making a decision. These purchasing decisions were driven largely by the Healthier Choice logo, which suggests that efforts by the government and food industry are effective in encouraging greater consumer awareness in driving healthier behaviours.

Matthew Kovac, Executive Director, FIA said: “Over the past few years we have seen food companies in Singapore taking great strides to reformulate and innovate their products to encourage healthier diets. However, until now we haven’t known much about the overall reformulation landscape, and how consumers are responding to these changes. This report is incredibly encouraging as it shows that there is a high demand for products that have been reformulated to become healthier.

To better understand the reformulation landscape, local and international food and drink manufacturers in Singapore were asked about their experiences, focus areas and challenges encountered. Findings show there is social and commercial demand for healthier products, with 80% of companies surveyed already reformulating their products to become healthier, and 16% planning to do so. Top motivators were improving public health (76%) and meeting consumer demand (72%). Some of the biggest challenges to reformulation included ensuring consumer acceptability, maintaining product taste and budget limitations to conduct more R&D to support reformulation.

Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive IGD, said: “Supporting good health is one of the most vital roles of the food and drink industry and in the UK, we have an extensive Healthy Eating programme that is delivering exciting results. We were delighted when Food Industry Asia asked us to conduct research in Singapore about healthier product reformulation.

“The results from the research reaffirm the importance of the health agenda. The majority of consumers would like to eat more healthily, they take responsibility for their diets but welcome help from companies. And across industry, many companies are working hard to make their products healthier, although not to the detriment of taste. The research suggests ways the food industry could accelerate the great progress already made to achieving a healthy Singapore and I’m looking forward to seeing how your initiatives develop in the future.

The report also found that:
  • Healthier product reformulation is widely accepted. 77% of Singapore consumers surveyed said they were happy if product recipes changed to make them healthier, provided taste is not compromised. 74% felt that food companies should be tweaking recipes to make products healthier.
  • The reformulation agenda is shifting. Previously, reducing salt/sodium and trans-fat levels were priorities for the food industry. Now, reformulation is spread across a wide range of nutrients in line with broader nutrition agendas. The survey highlighted that sugar reduction was a top priority for companies, along with fortifying products nutrients such as protein and fibre.
  • Governments play an important role in encouraging food companies to develop healthier products. 92% of companies said they would be encouraged to conduct more R&D to support reformulation if the government offered financial and fiscal initiatives. This included the Healthy Ingredient Development Scheme which was highlighted as a good initiative to capitalise on further.

The report, which is the first of its kind in Singapore, showcases industry efforts to continuously improve product offerings providing healthier options. These findings will be valuable for industry and government bodies to assess progress and recognise the areas of support businesses are seeking to further their reformulation efforts to advance the public health agenda.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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