Shopping for healthier options in the supermarket is much easier these days, thanks to the growing number of food products with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS).
Today, there are 2,500 such products on the shelves, up from just 300 in 2001 when the programme started. It does not stop there - the Health Promotion Board (HPB) intends to grow the market share of these healthier products from 15 per cent to 25 per cent by 2020, it revealed recently.
Packaged food products that are tagged with the red pyramid-shaped symbol are generally lower in total fat, saturated fat, sodium or sugar. Some contain more dietary fibre and calcium, compared with similar products in the same food category.
To achieve this, HPB is working with manufacturers to come up with healthier products, instead of simply leaving it up to them to come up with their own.
One of the manufacturers that it is working with, Ayam Brand Singapore, said the process would involve sharing nutrition information, recipes and the ingredient lists of the items. The company produces canned food, such as tuna, and other foodstuffs.
The plan is to introduce at least two HCS products a year, said Mr Roy Teo, its managing director.
Nestle Singapore also has several upcoming HCS products, while Prima is about to launch a few, and may have more in the line-up.
The manufacturers say consumers are more health-conscious these days and are happy to opt for healthier products, though they do not want to compromise on the taste.
There is a perception that healthy food does not taste good, and that good-tasting food is bad for your health, said Prima executive director Lewis Cheng.
The challenge, said Mr Rajiv Deraniyagala, managing director of Nestle Singapore, is in ensuring that its products strike "the right balance between having a strong nutritional proposition while remaining delicious".
So far, sales of its HCS products have increased steadily over the years, he said.
At Ayam Brand Singapore, consumer surveys and research showed that the HCS logo is one of the "positive triggers" that influence people's decision to buy the product, said Mr Teo.
"For many consumers, it's difficult to understand the nutritional values on the label. With the HCS symbol, they are able to identify healthier products more easily."
To help consumers spot Healthier Choice products more easily, the HPB is working with retailers, such as FairPrice, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong and Prime Supermarket, to make sure the items are prominently displayed on the shelves, among other initiatives.
In another positive development, Singaporeans seem more open these days to choosing healthier dishes when dining out.
This is based on new data from HPB's Healthier Dining programme, which encourages restaurants and food outlets to include healthier options in their menus. These include 500-calorie meals and dishes containing wholegrain ingredients.
In May, some 950,000 healthier meals were sold under this programme - a jump from the 525,000 meals sold in June last year. Today, the scheme has 38 companies on board, including restaurant chains and foodcourts. Altogether, they run more than 1,130 food outlets and stalls islandwide. HPB had started out in June last year with 18 partners with about 700 outlets and stalls.
One of the newest players is foodcourt operator Koufu. "Apart from Kopitiam and NTUC Foodfare, Koufu has also come on board the programme to offer more healthier food options to the masses," said an HPB spokesman.
HCS FOOD IS BETTER, BUT EAT IN MODERATION
Products with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) are generally healthier than those without the logo as they contain less sodium, saturated fat and sugar.
Some may be free of harmful trans fat, or higher in calcium, dietary fibre and whole grains.
However, all foods, when consumed in excessive amounts, can cause weight gain, said the Health Promotion Board.
So, even when eating HCS food products, remember to do so in moderation, it said.
This article was first published on Aug 18, 2015.
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