SINGAPORE - Food is big in Singapore. And you cannot get any bigger than Food&HotelAsia's biennial trade event show. Sprawled over two venues - Singapore Expo and Suntec City - the show is celebrating its 40th year with 78,000 attendees from over 100 countries.
At the biggest trade show in the region, which opened on Tuesday (April 24), industry professionals can get a taste of the food items and trends that could soon appear on diners' tables.
While the show is just for those in the food and hospitality trade, members of the public can sample some of the offerings.
Culinary teams from different countries are competing in the National Team Challenge, and foodies can choose to watch the teams in action at the Max Atria Foyer at Singapore Expo Hall 1, or pay to sample lunch ($70) or tea ($20) dished up by the competing team. On Wednesday, the Singapore Chefs' Association with be serving their menu alongside teams from Taiwan and Thailand.
There are also other competitions being held, including the first Asian Gelato Cup, the Latte Art Showdown and the National Cocktail Competition. For more information on the competitions, visit the FHA2018 website.
For foodies, here's a quick roundup of some of the buzzwords that will feed upcoming food trends in Singapore.
1. Organic and sustainable
Food safety is pretty much taken for granted in Singapore, with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) keeping a watchful eye on food sources. But the next step is ensuring that food comes from organic and sustainable sources.
At Omega Seafood, marketing manager Johanna O'Connell extols the cold, pristine waters of the Marlborough Sounds, located north of New Zealand's Cloudy Bay, where the company's mussels are farmed. The shellfish are precooked and vacuum sealed for ready-to-eat freshness. Ms O'Connell is hoping to convince a Singaporean distributor to bring in the family-owned business' seafood to food-mad Singapore.
Similarly, the emphasis at Kialla Pure Foods is on organic. The Australian company specialises in milling GMO-free, organic flours.
Local baking supplies company Phoon Huat carries the brand, and managing director Quentin Kennedy says he is hoping to expand the brand's reach in Singapore.
Besides the usual wheat, spelt and sorghum flours, he is keen to introduce Singaporeans to kamut, an ancient grain that can be found in the tombs of the Egyptian pharoahs.
This wheat has a high protein content and is known for its rich, nutty flavour.
2. Foods for every diet
Low sugar or no added sugar is an oft-heard mantra at the trade show as producers seek to reassure consumers who have become increasingly aware of the dangers of too much sugar.
Averest Foods' director of sales and marketing Liza Ong emphasises that her company's brand of apple chips, apple juices and apple cider vinegar is all natural, without added sugar.
This sometimes means that the juices and chips can taste sweeter, or more tart, depending on the year's apple harvest. But it also means that the company's products, made from New Zealand grown apples, can claim to be healthier snack and drink options.
Over at Belvoir Fruit Farms, which produces drinks and cordials in very English flavours such as elderflower and cucumber and mint, director of international Lee Hemmings says that they are expanding the range available in Singapore with a low-sugar range. The new low-sugar flavours, with less than 5g of sugar per serving, will be available in rose, ginger beer and elderflower.
Mr Hemmings noted that the company's drinks are becoming more popular as consumers seek to reduce alcohol intake, and look for alternatives to sugary sodas and plain water.
Forget vitamin water, which is mostly just coloured sugar water. At Fonterra's booth, one of the newest products is high protein water.
This water, enriched with whey, is nutrient rich and targeted at sports enthusiasts and athletes looking for both refreshment and dietary supplement after workouts. The dairy ingredients company is working with retail brands to introduce this concept to Singaporeans soon, so do not be surprised if the next big thing in sports drinks is a whey-enriched water.
For the lactose intolerant, New Zealand's Spring Sheep Milk Co hopes to provide the solution.
Sheep's milk is milder in flavour than goat's milk and sweet with vanilla notes. And it is kinder to lactose intolerant stomachs.
Spring Sheep's products include milk powder and calcium tablets.
3. Heritage stories behind food companies
You've heard of a five-year plan for economies. But how about a 500-year-plan for a company?
That is the very long term view from Kono, a Maori-owned family business that specialises in food and beverage. The indigenous roots of the company means that it is extra sensitive to its land and the way it is used to provide sustenance for people.
Besides seafood and fruit bars, the company also has a range of wines, marketed under the Kono and Tohu labels. The former is targeted at a mass market and made with blended grapes while the latter is a more upscale bottling featuring single grape wines.
Another company looking to capitalise on its heritage is Paterson Arran Limited, a Scottish bakery that specialises in, what else, shortbread.
The company started in 1895 as a bakery operated by a husband-and-wife team, but has now become an independent food company that also offers a range of chutneys and preserves under its Arran Fine Foods brand.
Besides producing cookies and bakes for cafes and restaurants, the company also offers retail products, packaged in ways which reflect its Scottish heritage. This can be cute tins with plaid Scottish terriers embossed on the lid, or a jam shortbread sandwich cookie which combines the company's baking expertise with its Arran jams.