15 October 2019
Healthy food trending in Malaysia
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It’s unfortunate that the words “delicious” and “healthy” don’t always go hand in hand in the world of food. The foods we love to eat are, more than often, tend to be the least healthy. Perhaps that’s part of what makes certain foods that little bit more tasty – the secret joy of enjoying something which is just a tiny bit wicked. The job for scientists and food technologists over recent years therefore has not been simply a case of determining which foodstuffs we should be eating but also making them appealing to the consumer.

Food and the global health drive

Over the last few decades scientific investigations have helped to clarify which nutritional ingredients are good for us and which are likely to cause us harm. Those ingredients are made plain on packaging so the consumer can make an informed choice. This approach to consumption is well-known in the west but is only just gaining a foothold in many South Asian countries. In Malaysia however, statistics suggest that consumers want to eat more healthily and so are welcoming new packaging and new healthy recipes.

Studies confirm new trends in Malaysia

The recent study by Kantar WorldPanel shows that there is a shift in the way Malaysians are eating. No longer are they satisfied with simple traditional local food, there is a definite trend to eating more healthily.

Part of the reason for this is the country has experienced a booming economy which has resulted in a larger middle-class with a rising disposable income. Eating healthily is no longer a luxury. They have more freedom to invest in products which are likely to take care of their wellbeing. Consumers are demanding easy to prepare meals and fast foods in order to keep up with the time-strapped demands of modern living, but at the same time they need to know foodstuffs are doing them good in the long-term as well as the short -term.

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Malaysian businesses reformulate to meet the demand

In order for consumers to eat more healthily they need to understand the basic concept of nutrition Education in this area has been very successful. To the extent that (according to the FIA – Food Industry Asia) many consumers in Malaysia are still not satisfied with the amount of healthy food options available. There is a general feeling that food and beverage companies need to continue to tweak current products in order to supply a more diverse range of healthy foods at an acceptable price. The study by the FIA shows that 88% of companies have already embarked on reformulating their products as the need for nutrition appears to be the key driver behind product choice.

The FIA prepared their research in partnership with IGD Asia. Chief Executive Susan Barrett said to the Sun daily “the research provides insights into how the industry and government can work together to achieve this and I look forward to seeing how the commercial landscape transforms in the future”

Who drives the trend?

Malaysian businesses in the food industry also accept that they have a role to play in driving consumer choices. It is clear from the FIA survey that the majority of Malaysians want to adopt a healthy diet and take responsibility for their consumption habits, but they also want businesses within the food industry to play a part in reformulating recipes where necessary. This costs money and puts the smaller companies at a disadvantage. In turn many companies have stated that in order to provide this role they will need support from the government financially.

Due to the boom in the economy, Malaysians do not have budget to the point where they can only choose the cheapest and possibly most unhealthy foods week in week out. Now they have the income and a greater knowledge as to what foods are good for them to make a choice for healthy and satisfying foods.

Take with a pinch of subjectivity

However as much as the FIA study is scientific there also has to be a little room for subjectivity. For instance, according to results, Malaysians are eating more dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. These foodstuffs have become a major part of the Malaysuan diet as natives perceive milk -rich items as good for the health. Western countries would still see them as healthy foods but would also encourage eating in moderation due to high fats and carbohydrates.

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