Obesity worries lift health food prospects in Asia

Tue Jul 7, 2009 8:21pm EDT
 
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By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters) - It's the growing number of customers such as Bill Chung, who is on a diet after packing on 30 kilograms, that food companies hope to attract as they expand health food lines in Asia.

Affluence and sedentary lifestyles have brought health problems such as obesity and diabetes to Asia, prompting locals such as Chung to fill up their shopping carts with products such as oats, yoghurt and vitamins.

"I went to a bookstore and read about it," said Chung, 33, a self-employed Taipei resident who lost six kilograms (13 pounds) over the past two months. "I'm spending a little less and it's all healthy, so I'm on track."

Asia has lagged behind other regions in packaged health foods consumption as the overall diet is relatively healthy with vegetables a main ingredient in many local dishes.

Nevertheless, the region's recent economic success has prompted fast food chains to expand outlets across Asia and foods such as ice-cream and chocolates have become popular.

Where high calorie junk food goes, health food follows close behind, those in the industry say, predicting solid growth for health products in Asia in the next few years.

"They are emerging products," said Lyndsey Anderson, Asia food and drink head for the London-based market forecasting firm Business Monitor.

"It hasn't caught on as quickly in the developing world. People traditionally have healthier diets anyway. The need to pay for packaged health foods isn't there. The region is lagging the rest of the world in that regard," Anderson said.   Continued...

 
<p>A man inspects organic bananas from central Taiwan which are five times more expensive than regular bananas at an organic food chain store in Taipei June 30, 2009. Affluence and sedentary lifestyles have brought health problems such as obesity and diabetes to Asia, prompting locals to fill up their shopping carts with products such as oats, yoghurt and vitamins. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang</p>