Health Conscious? You’re Not Alone
Health Conscious? You’re Not Alone
Global Health Trends
Around the world, people are becoming increasingly mindful of their personal health and wellness, especially with their choices of food products consumed daily. According to the NielsenIQ 2021 insight report, health-aligned products such as over-the-counter remedies or nutritional/healthier food/drinks have been seeing an increase in sales (31% growth from 2020-2021) in the United States. The increase could be a result of 48% of global consumers who had intentionally made health and wellness decisions as they go about their day. These decisions have been derived from a variety of reasons including the desire to live longer, healthier and to look and feel better. Consumers are also holding companies (i.e. food manufacturers, retailers) to higher standards and expecting them and governments to be proactive in supporting the health and wellbeing of the planet and its consumers. In fact, most surveyed global consumers (72%) from the NielsenIQ study felt that companies play a big role in making healthy food available and accessible for all, with a significant number of consumers stating that they would be more willing to buy from companies offering products with health benefits. Many trends contributed to the rising consumer demand and these includes higher healthcare costs (8.8% to 9.9% in 2020), sugar regulations (50 countries implemented sugar taxes) and label legislations (4 OECD countries mandate nutritional labelling). According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the increasing safety and quality regulations on food and emerging biosimilar products (eg. sugar substitutes) have contributed to the overall increase in demand for services from the Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) sector.
What’s going on in Singapore?
In Singapore, both the Government and the public have placed more focus on promoting and adopting healthier lifestyles over the years. This is evident from the introduction of national programmes such as the Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s Healthier Choice Symbol and Singapore Food Agency (SFA)’s Nutritional Labelling. These national initiatives were introduced to promote healthier lifestyles noting trends such as the increasing sugar intake by Singaporeans, which left many people vulnerable to diseases such as diabetes. Such efforts then, hope to encourage Singaporeans to make healthier food choices in their daily lives by highlighting how different brands and selections compare against others within the same product categories. But how do consumers differentiate such products from others, and how assured are they that these products indeed comply with the “healthy” requirements? The Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC) supports such initiatives through its accreditation programmes. Specific to verifying and validating healthy food products sold in the market, accredited conformity assessment bodies (including TIC organisations such as testing laboratories and certification bodies) provide independent assessments to ensure such claims are trustworthy and well verified. For the Food industry, SAC accredits TIC companies performing Functional Food Testing (for Glycemic Index (GI) testing) and Chemical Testing/Analysis (for Nutritional Labelling). Companies can leverage SAC accreditation for such tests to have added assurance on the TIC services rendered and aligned with international practices. In recent years, there has been a rise in demand for testing services - especially GI testing. Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, Head at the Centre of Applied Nutrition Services & Glycemic Index Research Unit (GIRU) in Temasek Polytechynic, noted that the market demand for GI testing of food products and ingredients outside Singapore is increasing steadily due to increased awareness about therapeutic effects of consuming low Glycemic Index Foods and growing segment of health-conscious consumers. GI testing puts to scale how quickly each food affects the body’s blood sugar/glucose level - lower GI food breaks down more slowly and allows for a delayed rise in glucose levels over time. The availability of low GI foods in the market benefits not only diabetic persons, but also individuals looking to control their calorie intake. In response to the growing consumer market, food manufacturers have oversubscribed GI testing at Temasek’s GI Testing Lab, Glycemic Index Research Unit (GIRU), currently the only accredited GI lab in Singapore.
“SAC Laboratory accreditation has provided us a benchmark for performance, a range of marketing advantages, and international recognition of our technical competence. It also assures customers that the Glycemic Index test results provided by our laboratory are accurate and reliable and has allowed data accompanying exported food products to be more readily accepted on overseas markets”.
Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran
Head, Centre of Applied Nutrition Services & Glycemic Index Research Unit
To cater to a wider combination of domestic and foreign consumers, food manufacturers and wholesalers alike have also noted the competitive advantages of SAC-accredited GI testing services. With the space being largely less regulated, companies that impose self-regulations and conduct stringent quality controls do see these additional measures as a competitive differentiator – providing its consumers with an added assurance on its products and services.
“Ace Trading always believes in offering consumers quality products that stand to the scrutiny of anyone. Hence, we engaged Temasek Polytechnic’s “Glycemic Index Research Unit (GIRU)” to clinically validate the Glycemic Index of AceNuwara Basmati rice samples.
The accredited “Tested low GI logo” offered by GIRU helped to increase the sales of the product and it also helped to distinguish our low GI basmati rice from our competitors. We also realised the importance of testing in an accredited lab as a result of global market competition. This has also helped our company to ease exports into the international markets.”
Agnes Seah, CEO, ACE Trading & Management Services Pte. Ltd.
As consumers are increasingly better educated and generally possess higher disposable income, there is a growing number of people who do not take a reactive stance to address their health needs and in turn, are more willing to pay premium prices for healthier food choices. As global efforts towards making health and wellness choices progress over time, companies stand to benefit from the current gap in health products and services. Food manufacturers and retailers should stay ahead of this health movement by catering its offerings to the preferences of this group, and should consider validating these health claims through TIC services.
Companies interested in accredited food testing services may also click here to view the full list of SAC Accredited TIC companies.
TIC companies looking to expand into the area of food testing, or adopt specific food accreditation programmes can find out more at this link.