More consumers making Healthier Choice

HEALTH-CONSCIOUS: Tat Hui Foods, which makes Koka instant noodles, first got a Healthier Choice symbol back in 2004. Another company, Naturel, says the symbol was a natural choice.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

That small red pyramid on food labels has become a giant.

Since its launch in 2001, the Healthier Choice programme has grown to include 2,500 products in more than 70 categories, says the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Products marked with the Healthier Choice symbol contain less sodium, saturated fat and sugar.

And people are responding by purchasing more of such food products, says Ms Joanna Chan, director of HPB's obesity prevention management division.

Sales of food products with the Healthier Choice symbol are growing at 9 per cent annually,

Mrs Chew S.C., 58, says she deliberately chooses food items with the symbol.

The piano teacher says: "I look out for the Healthier Choice symbol on food products.

"Most of the food products I purchase have to be labelled with the symbol, unless it is a necessity (to buy one that isn't).

"Even if a product without the symbol tastes better, I won't compromise on health for taste."

Companies are responding to this.

For instance, local producer Tat Hui Foods, which makes Koka instant noodles, first got a Healthier Choice symbol in 2004.

A spokesman explains how the first reformulation process took two years.

It initially seemed like a bit of a risk, as no one knew how people would react to the new mix of spices to replace the lessened sodium. But it has seen dividends.

POSITIVE

"It was worth it. We've been seeing a gradual increase in business, and we've received positive feedback from consumers, who are more health-conscious," says the spokesman.

It has some 10 products now that carry the Healthier Choice symbol and more are to come, adds the spokesman.

Another company, Naturel, says that although its food did not have to be modified to fit the guidelines, the symbol was a natural choice.

"Getting the Healthier Choice symbol means consumers don't have to spend time reading labels," says its marketing director, Ms Sulina Tsai, 48.

The brand produces organic brown rice, organic pasta, organic pasta sauce, olive oil, cooking oil, margarine and spreads.

Naturel's growth in business has been tremendous with the endorsement of the Healthier Choice symbol.

"We had a 6 per cent growth in revenue in 2015 compared with 2014," says Ms Tsai.

"And it is still growing every year."

Mrs Celeste Viviers, a registered dietitian from nutrition and wellness consulting company Nutrilicious, says: "The HPB has set standards for food companies to follow, and this promotes a healthier choice of food in the same category.

"But this doesn't guarantee that the food is healthy, although it is healthier."

She adds: "Education is key, consumers need to educate themselves and understand that some (types of) foods are not everyday food and might not be healthy.

"The symbol helps food companies show consumers that their food is healthier."

Civil servant Jaiesh Sachi, 19, says: "When I am shopping, I want to know how the food I eat affects my health.

"Having the Healthier Choice symbol on products keeps me aware of the nutritional value and what goes into my food."


This article was first published on July 17, 2016.
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