While plant-based meat alternatives are an increasingly hot product area, another growing food focus for governments and start-ups alike is healthier carbohydrates.
Seen as a solution to address issues such as malnutrition and diabetes, such products include fortified rice and sugars that keep the consumer feeling fuller longer.
The market for sugar alternatives is reportedly expected to reach $16.5 billion by 2020 with the Asian Pacific being the fastest-growing market.
“Today, Asia’s food businesses are more cognizant than ever of the vital role they play in helping to tackle the rising levels of obesity across the region,” said Matthew Kovac, the executive director of Singapore based food and beverage association Food Industry Asia.
For instance, two Singapore-based start-ups, Alchemy Foodtech and Nutrition Innovation, are seeking to capitalize on that market, working with major manufacturers to grow the consumer base for healthier products.
Both companies emphasize the importance of retaining taste and maintaining competitive prices with existing products when delivering low-sugar options to consumers.
Nutrition Innovation works with mills by providing technology that produces less-processed sugar.
While, such options have been in the market for a while, Nutrition Innovation CEO Matthew Godfrey said the company stands out because it helps produce at an industrial level that is consistent, meets safety tests and is cost effective.
Alchemy Foodtech, meanwhile, works with existing rice mills to create products that reduce the spikes in sugar levels when consumed.
“Since brand loyalty seems to be prevalent in Asia, we are looking at working with existing mills which will help incorporate healthy options without relying on consumers to make huge shifts in purchasing habits,” said Verleen Goh, co-founder of Alchemy Foodtech.
Beyond reducing sugar levels, the drive to make healthier carbohydrates has also included improving the nutritional value of grains like rice.
The global fortified rice market is expected to experience a 6.1 percent compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2026, according to a report from Transparency Market Research. By the end of 2026, according to that report, revenues from global sales of fortified rice will exceed $25 billion.
Companies are already betting big on the product category: Indian rice manufacturing company Asbah reportedly invested millions to launch its fortified product Power Rice.
Corrections: This article has been updated to reflect the correct name of Singaporean start-up Alchemy Foodtech. This article has also been updated to accurately reflect the nature of the AbillionVeg app.