Push for wholegrain noodles to be more widely available

Push for wholegrain noodles to be more widely available

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has set a target to make wholegrain noodles more widely available in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: The Health Promotion Board (HPB) has set a target to make wholegrain noodles more widely available in Singapore.

The HPB aims to increase the proportion of such noodles sold in Singapore from the current 2 per cent to 10 per cent by 2020. This comes on the back of a S$20 million Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme (HIDS) announced earlier this year to support food manufacturers.

HPB’s CEO Zee Yoong Kang gave this update on Tuesday (Dec 12), during a noodle manufacturing process tour at Leong Guan Food Manufacturer. 

HPB aims to increase the wholegrain intake of Singaporeans by targeting noodles, as almost nine in 10 Singapore residents consume it at least once a week, according to a National Nutrition Survey in 2010.

Leong Guan Food Manufacturer is one of 10 companies that successfully applied for the HIDS, which was rolled out in July. So far, about S$5 million has been set aside for these companies to develop and market healthier oils, rice or noodles.

Leong Guan Food Manufacturer said the support will help it further increase the percentage of wholegrain in some of its existing products – it now has six types of noodles under its healthier product range – as well as to create more varieties of wholegrain noodles. 

However, the company, which has been investing in such research and development since 2012, also said that it is challenging to get food and beverage outlets to use healthier noodles on their menus. Currently, Leong Guan Food Manufacturer’s healthier noodle range makes up 5 per cent of its total noodle sales.

"For these operators, they require profit to sustain their business. So how do we assure them that healthier noodles will sell? We need to convince them and that takes a period of time,” said Mr Lim Hock Chai, managing director of Leong Guan Food Manufacturer.

Mr Lim said funds from the scheme will also go towards promotional materials such as a table standee for hawkers who carry their noodles.

The current demand for wholegrain noodles comes mainly from government agencies and schools where there are guidelines on consumption, said Mr Zee. 

While 10 per cent might be an ambitious target, he added that HPB has been gaining good traction in terms of getting food operators to make the switch to healthier oils.

"In the span of two years, we perhaps got one-third of the market to shift. It'll be harder for wholegrain noodles because there's a difference in taste, versus oil where people can't usually taste the difference. But we're using that as a benchmark in terms of the magnitude of shift we want in the market", said Mr Zee.

wholegrain noodles
The noodle manufacturing process at Leong Guan Food Manufacturer. (Photo: Chan Luo Er)

To encourage demand from F&B outlets, HPB will be expanding its current Healthier Dining Programme by early next year to help food operators tweak their menus to include these healthier options.

Mr Zee was also asked for an update on the Healthier Choice symbol, which came under fire as people have mistakenly believed that products with the symbol are outright healthy, when in fact they represent a healthier option compared with their counterparts.

"We don't want to leave Singaporeans with the impression that there is anything that can be referred to as an intrinsically healthy or unhealthy food. If we label something as healthy and someone eats too much of that, it is still going to be unhealthy. There are two primary messages: First is to have a balanced diet, and second is to have everything in moderation," said Mr Zee.

HPB is also looking into labelling schemes from other parts of the world for more targeted messaging on the nutritional value of certain food products.

Source: CNA/kc