There is a growing market for elder-care food in South-east Asia, observed Masanao Nishida, director of the Food Japan show. This trend, along with the increasing popularity of functional food in the region, was highlighted in the annual trade show that was held in Suntec Singapore in October this year.
Functional Food is defined as whole or fortified food that provides health benefits. Nishida told Foodbiz Asia that Japan is the birthplace of functional food with the probiotic-rich Yakult cultured milk brand kicking off the trend in the 1950s. Today, more than 1,000 new products are released every year including items such as Mamenoka Paste, said to be a healthier substitute to butter and margarine; and Perilla Oil, which is an essential fatty acid that cannot be produced within the human body.
The popularity of elder-care food is tied to Japan’s increasingly ageing population, Nishida added. With Japan’s burgeoning silver population, elder-care food is an industry that has seen a lot of development in the past few years, said the Food Japan organizer. Elder-care food should look and taste appealing, but is safe enough for the elderly to swallow without choking. Nishida said several nursing homes in Singapore are already serving elder-care food imported from Japan. Food Japan highlighted products that fit into both functional and elder-care food categories. These included amazake, a fermented non-alcoholic drink with nutritious properties, and brown rice granola.
Japan has a lot of functional food products that offer both health and safety benefits as Japan has a strong reputation when it comes to maintaining food-safety standards.
Nishida said Japan has a lot of functional food products that offer both health and safety benefits as Japan has a strong reputation when it comes to maintaining food-safety standards. However, challenges remain in the regulatory space, as Japanese functional food manufacturers would have to adhere to various regulatory requirements outlined by different countries in the region.
In another development, Japanese food manufacturers are also eyeing the burgeoning halal food market in the ASEAN region. Nishida said Japan is exploring the halal market as it presents a big opportunity.
But while Japanese manufacturers want to focus on this market, they still need to understand different halal certifications requirements from the various ASEAN countries. Certification challenges aside, Nishida feels that offering halal foods would not be a problem in the long run, because there are a lot of food products in Japan that are alcohol- or pork-free.
Food Japan will return to Singapore next year, but in the meantime, Nishida’s team will be bringing smaller versions of this show to Vietnam and the Philippines to tap into those markets as well.
He concluded: “Demand for Japanese ingredients, innovations and food products is high, and Food Japan serves as a strategic platform that connects relevant business parties together. We’re committed to bringing in only the best, the most innovative and the latest ingredients and trends to South-east Asia and we are certain that the South-east Asian market is ready for it.”