'Healthy' the key factor in snacking

SINGAPORE - Singapore consumers like to snack healthy, and so do their counterparts in the rest of the region, according to a new survey by research firm Nielsen.

Bread and sandwiches were the most popular items enjoyed here outside of mealtime, followed by fresh fruit, then chocolate. Meanwhile, fresh fruit was the top choice of people in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Nielsen Global Survey of Snacking polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries, including 501 from Singapore, in February and March.

The market for snacks in Singapore is worth US$425 million (S$541 million), which is 1.6 per cent larger than a year ago, Nielsen said.

Healthy snacking is trending, said the survey, with consumers in Singapore ranking freshness as their top priority, ahead of other favourite attributes like how flavourful or crispy a food item is.

Often, the need to be health-conscious arises because snacking plays a huge role in the busy lives of people.

"There's a big lifestyle factor - people rely on snacks when they skip meals or get hungry in between meals," said Mr Derrick Ong, an accredited dietitian at Eat Right Consultancy.

"Rather than waiting for things to happen, they are eating right now so they don't have problems later."

In Singapore, 71 per cent of respondents said they snacked to satisfy hunger between meals.

Mr Walter Oh, 27, likes baked almonds and granola bars: "When we've been sitting at our desks for 12 hours, we need something to fill our tummies," said the co-founder of BoxGreen, a startup that delivers healthy tidbits to offices and homes.

Mr Oh believes that, like him, more people would go for healthier choices if they are available.

Consumers here also care more about the absence of certain ingredients - salt, sugar and artificial colours - in snacks rather than the addition of minerals or vitamins.

But Mr Ong advises consumers to go beyond a "no this, low that" approach. "What about snacks that are high in fibre, or good-quality proteins? Fibre is good, even just to keep you full, and protein too can keep hunger at bay and help with weight loss," he said.

This article was first published on October 3, 2014.
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