More than half in Singapore follow diets that limit certain ingredients: Nielsen survey

About 57 per cent of Singaporeans follow diets that limit certain ingredients.
About 57 per cent of Singaporeans follow diets that limit certain ingredients.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans love their food and their health - they follow diets that limit or omit certain ingredients, a survey has found.

About 57 per cent of the people polled here followed such diets, according to findings from the Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey released on Thursday (Sept 22).

The online survey polled more than 30,000 people in 63 countries, including 514 people from Singapore, to understand how they feel about the food and drinks on store shelves.

It examined respondents' self-reported dietary restrictions, including food allergies or intolerances, and the extent to which current offerings meet their needs. It also looked at consumer sentiment across 22 ingredients to find out what consumers want on store shelves.

According to the survey, the top two food ingredients that Singaporeans try to avoid are monosodium glutamate or MSG (64 per cent) and artificial preservatives (63 per cent). The top two diets that they adhere to are low/no fat (28 per cent) and low/no sugar diets (25 per cent).

Said Ms Joan Koh, managing director of Nielsen Singapore and Malaysia: "The rising obesity rates, increasing number of adults living with diabetes, and progressively less active lifestyles are critical motivations which nudged Singaporeans to relook their eating options and habits."

  • Numbers at a glance

  • 57% of Singaporeans follow diets that limit or omit certain ingredients

  • 64% avoid MSG

  • 28% follow low/no fat diets

  • 54% wanted more all-natural products and 40% wanted organic food

  • About 7 in 10 said they felt more positively about companies that were transparent about where and how products were made or grown

She added: "When it comes to the food we eat, consumers are going back to basics and the survey findings indicated that less is more as they omit ingredients that are not beneficial to their well-being."

Singaporeans were found to avoid certain ingredients primarily because of their perceived impact on health, rather than an actual medical condition.

The most undesirable ingredients and food items among people in Singapore are: artificial preservatives (91 per cent); food products contained in packaging made of bisphenol-A or BPA (90 per cent); and MSG and artificial colours (both at 89 per cent).

Close to six in 10 (57 per cent) respondents said their dietary needs were either not met or partially met by the current product offerings. They wanted more healthy food products in retail stores, namely all-natural products (54 per cent of respondents), products with low/no sugar and low/no fat (both at 46 per cent), and organic food (40 per cent).

About seven in 10 of those polled said they felt more positively about companies that were transparent about where and how products were made or grown. More than half also said they were willing to pay more for food and drinks that did not contain undesirable ingredients.

Ms Koh said: "Consumers are seeking natural and minimally processed food with beneficial ingredients which promote good health. Adopting the right strategies in this growing health and wellness space will increase the chance for both food manufacturers and retailers to build a loyal shopper base and drive profits for their businesses."