Report Finds ASEAN Businesses Have a Key Role to Play in Sustainable Nutrition

Product innovation for nutrition, and promoting healthier eating and lifestyle choices were two areas identified by a new report where businesses can, and already are scaling up efforts to improve food and nutrition security in Southeast Asia.

The report by FrieslandCampina in partnership with non-profit sustainability company Forum for the Future, was produced following a roundtable of 20 experts and stakeholders from across the food value chain, including multinational companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and academia in Singapore in May.

It comes at a time when, as the report states, more than 60 million people will join the consuming class in ASEAN over the next five years, increasing demands on food and resources.  By 2030, the world will need to produce 50 per cent more food to feed its growing population with a shrinking agricultural workforce, and depleting natural resources.  At the same time, the report highlights, ASEAN is home to four of the 20 countries with the highest levels of malnutrition (Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam) raising challenges under the dual burden of over and under nutrition.

In commenting on the roundtable in Singapore, Piet Hilarides, Chief Operating Officer for FrieslandCampina Asia said, “Collectively, we all agreed that the role of the business sector is important and the need for multi-sectoral collaboration to accelerate the progress of sustainability and development should be a top priority for us all.  Our discussions highlighted our ability to safeguard our future if we work together – pooling and mobilising resources, expertise, and knowledge towards a common goal.”

He said, “All of us have an imperative to set a global example within the food and nutrition industry to re-define the role of enterprise beyond the pursuit of profit. We are accountable from the design and development to production and promotion, for the way we behave in the countries in which we do business, to the families that we serve.  We believe that we should give and empower just as must as we take and make, if not more.”

The four areas identified where businesses in Asia can make a difference in addressing the region’s food and nutrition security spanned across the food value chain, and included: enabling sustainable food production with improved land management, conservation, and strengthening farmers’ livelihoods; identifying areas of waste, inefficiency, and bottlenecks in supply chains; developing healthier products and improving access to affordable produce; and encouraging consumers to make healthier food choices, live active lifestyles, and reduce food waste.

From these areas, the roundtable group recommended that stronger multi-sector collaboration across the entire food value chain was needed to accelerate food and nutrition security outcomes in Southeast Asia.  In the area of nutrition, the multi-sector recommendation was for companies, government bodies and NGOs to create a shared approach to engaging the consumer on better diet and lifestyle choices. 

Commenting on the report, Professor Paul Teng, Adjunct Senior Fellow in Food Security in the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies of Nanyang Technological University, said “The contemporary view of food security is that it multi-dimensional in nature, and requires a multi-sectorial approach if countries are serious about tackling it in a comprehensive manner.”

Piet Hilarides cited the International Finance Corporation’s smallholder handbook; Rabobank-FrieslandCampina collaboration on financing and technical support for local dairy cooperatives, and measures including advancing supply chain infrastructure such as SMS notification system that inform farmers about transportation options can contribute to an enhanced efficiency and minimize food waste as examples of agricultural productivity and improving the sustainability of the agricultural system include

“Other examples of promoting healthier eating and lifestyles amongst consumers were FrieslandCampina’s Drink Move Be Strong program fostering balanced diet and exercise for healthy living among children; FairPrice’s food waste reduction framework, and the Responsible Advertising to Children Pledge in Singapore, which Food Industry Asia (FIA) is a signatory to,” he said.

Some of the examples cited in the report of where businesses had already made a difference in product innovation for nutrition in Asia, included McDonald’s Delight 500 kcal meals; Nestle’s work with Singapore’s A*STAR to research on biotransformation; Cargill’s Animal Feed Innovation; and Tetra Pak’s school milk programme in Myanmar.  

Ms Ariel Muller, Director, Asia Pacific, Forum for the Future said, “The report truly affirms and underscores the ability of multi-stakeholder partnerships to address complex sustainability challenges.  We hope that this report brings about meaningful and credible contributions to strengthen and advance food and nutrition security in Southeast Asia.”

To read more about the work of FIA in the area of Health & Nutrition in Asia’s food industry click here.

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