Highlights: Sustainable Foods Summit In Asia Pacific

Thursday, January 4th, 2018 | 1593 Views

The Asia Pacific edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit was held in Singapore in November 2017, bringing together about 100 senior executives from the regional food industry.

Discussions at the summit centred on sustainability developments, organic market potential, health impacts, and food ingredients.

The summit opened with a keynote from Raj Seelam, chief executive officer of Sresta Natural BioProducts. According to the founder of the leading organic food company in India, organic is the most sustainable form of agriculture because of its low environmental impacts, as well as social and health benefits.

Market intelligence agency Nielsen also highlighted some of the health and wellness trends stimulating demand for organic and sustainable foods. Digital media is expected to play an important role in the future, helping consumers make healthy and sustainable choices.

The Asian organic food industry is facing a few major obstacles, and Amarjit Sahota from Ecovia Intelligence showed that Asia has become a leading producer of organic foods, yet consumption was lagging behind Europe and North America in spite of the region having some of the most affluent consumers.

Anne Gabriel from Marine Stewardship Council highlighted the potential for sustainable seafood in the Asia Pacific. She said that one billion people in the region rely on fish as their primary animal protein, whilst over 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are located in the region. The organisation aims to take 20 percent share of global marine catch by 2020, and a third by 2030.

Andy Sweetman from Futamura made the case for bioplastics and highlighted the environmental impact of plastic packaging (eight million tonnes going into the ocean each year), he called for greater adoption of plant-based packaging materials by food and beverage companies.

Tan Jian from OFDC China said that milk and dairy was one of the fastest growing sectors of the Chinese organic food market. Standards inconsistency and labelling issues were cited as the major pitfalls when entering the Chinese market.

Duncan McCance from The Frank Food Company is attempting to reconnect Singaporean consumers to agriculture with its home delivery scheme. Certified organic vegetables that Mr McCance’s company sells are picked in neighbouring Indonesia and delivered to consumer households within 12 hours. To encourage home cooking, the company provides free recipes.

The final session at the summit discussed the growing use of sustainable food ingredients. Givaudan covered the sustainability issues associated with flavourings, whilst Puifung Leung from Fairtrade Hong Kong outlined the growing prospects for fairtrade products in the Asian region.  PureCircle described the growing use of stevia as a sustainable alternative to sugar in food and beverage applications.

Kalli Swaik from Ben & Jerry’s Asia gave insights into the sustainable ingredients used in the company’s ice-cream products; apart from fairtrade sugar and cocoa, the company has a sustainable dairy programme involving 300 farmers. The ice-cream brand is using life-cycle analyses to address its environmental and social impacts.

Hosted for the first time in Asia, the summit raised many questions about sustainable development. As incomes and spending power rise, how can Asian consumers be encouraged to spend more on organic and sustainable foods? What can be done to raise adoption rates of plant-based proteins and dairy alternatives? How can sustainable packaging be encouraged? How can awareness of environmental issues like deforestation, ocean pollution, and climate change be translated into ethical purchases?

Some of these questions will be addressed in the next Asia Pacific edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit, scheduled for 4-5 September, 2018.