Appetite for sustainable food options growing – TODAYonline
SINGAPORE — Artisan water, free-range eggs, organic vegetables, cold-pressed juices, steroid-free meat. Singaporeans are spoilt for healthy eating choices, as specialised grocers and eateries compete for the consumer dollar. Fuelled by an increased awareness of health and nutrition, consumers are growing more concerned about food safety and sustainability, experts told TODAY.
Once a niche market catering to a small segment of the population, the food and beverage landscape is undergoing a transformation as Singaporeans look for healthier food options.
“We now see a lot more consumers asking us questions, like where do the food ingredients come from or the way they are farmed, what is the cooking process for our pastries and also the packaging material we use — whether they are eco-friendly.
“People these days are highly conscious of what they are eating and choose to opt for food that is nutritious as well as safe and sustainably sourced,” said Ms Katherine Desbaillets, director at SaladStop!, a chain of outlets offering natural foods.
The changing tastes and demands of local consumers are driving the adoption of international standards of transparency and sustainability in food sourcing, said Mr Andrew Kwan, group managing director at Commonwealth Capital — that houses a portfolio of brands such as PastaMania, Swissbake and The Soup Spoon.
“We need to be telling our consumers where our ingredients are being sourced from and that the quality of the products we’re bringing in is top-notch,” he added. “Making such changes to our businesses will provide positive economic outcomes because of the trust we build with our customers.”
Nutritionists say that food sustainability is not just about locally-sourced, pasture-fed, organic or certified food products. It is a movement that should come with government-led initiatives.
“Just as important is the question of what and how much is eaten,” said Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, domain lead for applied nutrition and glycemic index research at Temasek Polytechnic. “Recently, there has been a lot of awareness on this, but a lot still needs to be done … Each and every one of us should support sustainable food sources, so that every meal we consume is a socially-conscious meal.”
Industry players said the challenge is that some restaurants use the sustainable food concept as a marketing gimmick, marking up prices by tagging their offerings as organic. Some food labelled as organic are often misleading as it is not easy to trace the origin of the ingredients used.
Food sustainability also extends to supply chain logistics, including minimum wastage, product traceability and methods of farming, added Ms Desbaillets.
With consumers being more aware of their choices, social enterprises are also jumping on the bandwagon.
Kerbside Gourmet, a mobile food truck that prides itself on serving meals that do not contain preservatives or additives, offers a meal to families in need for every main meal sold.
“Placing a few herb boxes outside your restaurant window doesn’t mean you’re serious about sustainable produce … Food from organic farms tends to be more expensive as they are typically smaller and no chemicals means more labour, amongst other reasons. It is still a price-sensitive market and demand is not overwhelming,” said Ms Luan Ee, founder of Kerbside Gourmet.