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MORE FOOD MANUFACTURERS CREATING FUNCTIONAL FOODS THAT BOOST HEALTH AND FIGHT DISEASES

The FINEST Food Programme aims to get local food companies develop at least 30 new prototypes over the next three years by helping them transform ideas to market-ready realities. 

Singapore, 10 July 2012: A super-sized industry currently worth about $32 billion, the global functional foods market may soon be seeing the entry of a steady stream of locally-made products that can boost health and fight diseases, from maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure to preventing diabetes and heart attacks.

2. A functional food is similar in appearance to a conventional food that is consumed as part of a usual diet, with ingredients or compositions that are proven to confer health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Examples of such foods include yoghurts containing bacterial cultures and eggs with Omega-3 fat.

3. In order to encourage the development and production of functional foods that are not only healthy but tasty, accessible and affordable, the FINEST Food Programme was launched last October as a one-stop resource hub, to equip industry players venturing into the functional foods market with the necessary knowledge and skills.

4. A multi-agency initiative involving the public, private and knowledge sectors, the FINEST Food Programme is helmed by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), in collaboration with SPRING Singapore; the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR); the Singapore Food Manufacturers' Association (SFMA); Temasek Polytechnic; Singapore Polytechnic; Republic Polytechnic; Nanyang Polytechnic and the Food Innovation and Resource Centre housed at Singapore Polytechnic.

5. Working with partners in the food industry, the Programme introduced salt with lower sodium content and wholegrain noodles to the mass market last year. Since then, the overall sales volume of healthier salt has increased by 15 per cent, while the production of wholegrain noodles has jumped fourfold. 

6. To continue the good work started last year, the FINEST Food Symposium and Exhibition on the 10th and 11th July presents a clear business case for the development of functional foods, by bringing together more than 20 key partners in the functional food value chain such as food technologists, ingredient suppliers, R&D experts and market analysts.

7. The two-day exhibition will feature a diverse range of prototypes, from low Glycemic Index (GI) noodles, buns and muffins to heart-friendly foods and beverages fortified with Omega-3. It will also offer participants a chance to go behind the scenes by scheduling visits to local application laboratories and innovation centres for valuable hands-on experience.

8. The GI is a ranking of foods based on their immediate effect on a person‟s blood glucose level. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion have a high GI while those that break down slowly have a low GI. Not only can a low GI diet help in diabetes management, it can also assist with weight management by making a person feel fuller longer.

9. Said Dr Amy Khor, Minister of State for Health: “The aim of the FINEST Food Symposium and Exhibition is to stoke the imagination and entrepreneurial spirit of food manufacturers here, and encourage them to start working on new functional food prototypes that can promote the health and well-being of the population. As an additional nudge, HPB is partnering SPRING Singapore to provide grants worth more than $10,000, which can be used by food manufacturers to tap the expertise of food scientists and turn ideas into market realities. In a crowded and competitive food industry, functional foods offer prospects for growth. One of the fastest-growing segments in the global food industry, the functional food market is forecast to be worth $38 billion by 2014, with Asia Pacific accounting for 40 per cent of total market share. These numbers must surely give our food manufacturers some food for thought, and I urge them to make use of the opportunities and support available to build a successful functional food business that is beneficial to health locally and beyond.”

10. Said Mr Ang Hak Seng, Chief Executive Officer, HPB: “Nutrition science has moved from the classical concept of 'adequate nutrition' to 'optimal nutrition', with more food products designed to optimise well-being as well as reduce the risk of disease. Our National Nutrition Survey findings indicate that most Singaporeans' daily food intake meets the recommendations for protein, vitamins and minerals. Those who consume Healthier Choice Symbol, or HCS, products fare even better as their diets would likely be rich in nutrients but low in sodium and saturated fat. However, more can be done to help Singaporeans gain optimum nutrition in the fight against chronic diseases. For a start, we will be focusing on foods with low GI or fortified with Omega-3 fat, which can help with diabetes management and active aging. To encourage companies to develop functional foods with these components, such as wholegrain noodles with a low Glycemic Index or soy milk and beancurd fortified with Omega-3, HPB is introducing two new HCS variants to help consumers identify such products.”

11. Said Mr Wong Mong Hong, President, SFMA: “Singaporean food manufacturers have already made their mark internationally for maintaining high safety standards. It's now time to let the world know we are adept at producing food that is not just safe but healthy and nutritious as well. Let us leverage our excellent partnership with HPB to build our skills and knowledge in the functional food business by applying for grants and tapping the expertise of key players in the functional food value chain. As part of our commitment to help Singapore companies develop healthier products and sharpen their competitive edge, SFMA aims to provide first-hand experience and in-depth learning by facilitating visits to local and overseas application laboratories.”

12. Said the conference's keynote speaker, Professor Jeyakumar Henry, Director, Clinical Nutritional Sciences, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences: “In most developed countries with rapidly greying populations, healthcare costs make up 9 to 16 per cent of the Gross National Product. As Singapore grapples with our own 'silver tsunami', the development and consumption of functional foods to boost health and reduce diet-related chronic diseases are timely and even necessary if we do not want health costs to become a national burden. There's no doubt that functional food is becoming a key component of public health in countries around the world, including Singapore. With initiatives like the FINEST Food Programme giving the local functional food industry a helping hand, I am certain that more and more Made-in-Singapore functional foods that are both tasty and affordable will find their way to our dinner tables.”

13. Under the FINEST Food Programme, HPB aims to have local companies develop and manufacture at least 30 new functional food prototypes within the next three years.

ANNEX A - Fact Sheet on FINEST Food Symposium and Exhibition 2012
ANNEX B - Healthier Choice Symbol New Product Development Grant Information Sheet
ANNEX C - Innovation & Capability Voucher and Technology Innovation Programme

Issued by Health Promotion Board