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Almost all consumers in Thailand (99 per cent) are interested in improving their diets while 82 per cent are happy for products to made healthier, provided that taste is not compromised.
The findings come from a new report by Food Industry Asia (FIA) and research firm IGD.
The first of its kind in Thailand, the report titled “Healthier Product Reformulation in Thailand” surveyed both consumers and food and beverage (F&B) businesses to better understand industry efforts on delivering improved nutrition through reformulation, as well as consumer behaviour and perception on products tweaked to become healthier.
Thailand is facing a double burden of poor nutrition and obesity, leading to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and heart disease, which are now the top cause of death among Thais. In light of this, the government and food industry have been working to improve the health of the population with efforts ranging from the clear display of nutrition information to physical activity action plans. However, the report indicated that product reformulation can support the health push without relying on any change of consumer behaviour.
FIA executive director Matthew Kovac said, “Thai food companies have been supporting the national health agenda through greater product innovation – 88 per cent of companies surveyed have embarked on reformulation to improve the nutritional value of their products and five per cent have already completed their plans, thus bringing about positive changes to the landscape in Thailand.”
The industry’s efforts are in sync with consumers’ receptiveness towards reformulated products, with eight in 10 agreeing that companies should be actively working on this. However, consumers remain unwilling to compromise on taste for health benefits, with 82 per cent of respondents indicating they would accept reformulated products only if the flavour was retained.
The increased demand for healthier products has led to strong commercial incentive for companies to invest in reformulation. However, the report also suggested government could play a greater role, as 82 per cent of companies felt that greater fiscal incentives would help encourage research and development (R&D) in healthy products.
“In order for us to accelerate the industry’s efforts, multi-stakeholder collaborations will be crucial in driving greater R&D activities for new product development and reformulation,” Kovac said.