As citizens of a foodie nation, Singaporeans love to stay on top of the latest food trends.
The folks at Digital Senior are no exception—we love a good cup of brown sugar milk tea—and we decided to find out more about the major transformations taking place in the food industry. Where is the food and beverage industry headed, and how will this impact the future?
After hours of research (and countless mouth-watering food images), here’s what we discovered!
1) Plant-based alternatives
Plant-based alternatives have been gaining traction in Singapore as people become more eco-conscious and health-conscious, with many expressing an interest in products such as plant-based milk and plant-based meat.
Many vegan and vegetarian food eateries have set up shop here in recent years, too! Serving up everything from mock meat burgers to local delights, these eateries have helped Singapore become the sixth most vegan-friendly city globally[i]. A number of local restaurants and hawkers have also begun adding plant-based options to their menus[ii], leaving diners spoilt for choice.
While meatless substitutes and dairy alternatives are the most well-known plant-based products, they’re not the only ones! You can also find plant-based alternatives for eggs and honey, for example. The pearls in your favourite milk tea could soon be plant-based too. A group of final-year students studying The Bachelor of Food Technology with Honours jointly offered by the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and Massey University has explored the possibility of plant-based pearls as a healthy alternative to tapioca-based pearls.
The end product? Pearls formulated with soy protein that are higher in protein and lower in carbs—that’s one thing we’re eager to try for ourselves!
2) Functional and healthier beverages
Have you gotten your fix of kombucha recently? If so, did you know that the beverage has been consumed across various cultures from as early as 220 BC[iii], long before its recent explosion in popularity[iv]?
Kombucha is part of an ongoing functional beverage trend, which sees drinks offering health benefits beyond their basic nutritional functions[v] rising in demand. As Singapore’s Ministry of Health seeks to reduce the consumption of high-sugar beverages[vi] to fight diabetes, we can definitely expect significant interest in innovative drinks that are nutritious but do not compromise on taste.
In another interesting capstone project, SIT students brainstormed and concocted a no-sugar-added, naturally-sweetened green tea osmanthus drink! A novel spin on the traditional herbal drink, their proposed offering features pearls made with honey and lemon balm. Lemon balm is known for its stress-reducing and anxiety-relieving properties[vii] and green tea for its antioxidant effects[viii], making their proposed product, Bubal, perfect for students and office workers searching for a refreshing pick-me-up!
3) Ready-to-Eat Meals
To tackle these challenges, the Ministry of Trade and Industry Singapore (MTI) launched the Food Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM) in 2016 to introduce innovative and manpower-lean formats that will also meet consumers’ needs. One such format is the retailing of ready-to-eat meals, which has become more viable due to advancements in food processing technology[xi]—which ensure that the taste and quality of such food will not be compromised in any way!
Today, popular food chains such as Soup Restaurant, The Soup Spoon and Ippudo have ready-to-eat meal offerings for consumers desiring convenience and efficiency. Food service providers have also jumped on the bandwagon: Select Group, for example, has identified ready meals as a target segment[xii] and currently offers a wide variety of options under their brand Taste Asia! The company recently collaborated with SIT final-year students to develop a ready-to-eat meal, and the students came up with stuffed meatballs tailored for vending machines after much ideation and experimentation.
With the Global Ready Meals Market anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 4.62% from 2020-2025[xiii], and Asia-Pacific slated to be the fastest-growing region, we’re sure that the variety of ready meals here will only increase within the next few years.
4) Reducing food losses and waste
Food loss and waste have come under the spotlight for the serious environmental and social impact it brings—and not of the favourable sort! It is a huge driver of climate change, accounting for at least 6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions[xiv], and accounts of at least one-third of the world’s global food production[xv].
With the world’s population expected to grow to reach 9.7 billion in 2050[xvi], there is an urgent need for innovative food technology solutions that will ensure sustainable food production. One solution with high potential is food waste valorisation, a process that converts food waste or by-products into higher value products.
Local companies and institutions have made headway in this area with okara, or soy pulp, a by-product of soy milk and tofu production that is rich is fibre and protein. Current offerings in the market include soy granola bars[xvii] and okara floss[xviii], with more food products possibly launching in the near future[xix]. In fact, SIT students recently collaborated with Mr Bean to create a soy tart product by using okara as one of the key ingredients.
“While the industry still has some way to go to widely implement food waste valorisation due to various challenges”, according to Associate Professor Jorry Dharmawan, who teaches the Food Technology programme at SIT, the university “encourages their students to incorporate the process into their product development works as part of their learning”.
Doesn’t this sound exciting? We think it does, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next generation of Food Technologists and Product Development Technologists will create!
Find what we’ve discovered as fascinating as we do?
Here’s the reveal: these trends are all powered by Food Technology, a sector that has seen growth locally! Singapore is home to several exciting food technology innovation startups like TurtleTree Labs, which aims to produce the world’s first lab-grown dairy and human breast milk[xx], and Karana, which plans to launch a pork substitute made from organic young jackfruit[xxi]. The Singapore Government has also invested heavily in the broader agri-foodtech sector, leading to a conducive environment for a Food Technology ecosystem[xxii]!
If you’re interested in a career in the Food Tech industry, you’ll need a strong foundation in Food Product Technology.
This is where SIT comes in! The university’s Bachelor of Food Technology with Honours, jointly developed and offered by SIT and Massey University, balances science, technology, and business to produce graduates equipped with applied food technology skills required for a meaningful career in the global food industry. This means that they’ll be able to conceptualise food product ideas, materialise them, and then bring them to the consumer if that’s their desire.
SIT Food Tech students start gaining hands-on experience right from Day One, as they themselves will attest, and familiarise themselves with industry-standard lab equipment like the Mastersizer and rheometer to give them an edge over their peers. The degree also has a compulsory Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) component, which sees students embarking on a 7-month uninterrupted work placement programme with companies in fields such as sensory and nutrition, food manufacturing, and food quality control and assurance.
This, combined with real industry projects that students will get the chance work on throughout their studies, will lay the groundwork for success in their chosen careers! If this sounds exciting, why not take a look at the programme’s course page?
Who knows—you might have a part to play in the food trends of the future!
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