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South-east Asia in brief

New labelling from Nestlé, China buying more Vietnamese rice

By Edited by RJ Whitehead , 13-Dec-2012
Last updated on 13-Dec-2012 at 08:52 GMT

A round-up of the big stories coming from South-east Asia.

Compass labelling system designed for ease of understanding

Nestlé Philippines claims to have designed a unique labelling system that makes use of an easy-to-follow graphic tool to highlight relevant points of interest about its products. 

We realise that nutrition information by itself can be confusing,” said the company’s corporate wellness head, Leslie Go-Alcantara. 

Consumers don’t readily see, understand and appreciate the benefit of the product they’re getting. Through our Nestlé Nutritional Compass, we want to make sure our consumers know and understand how our products can help them achieve good nutrition, health and wellness.”

Designed to enable consumers to navigate through what might be a confusing mix of nutritional terms and figures, the system aims to provide simple and understandable information that makes sense to the consumer, and is composed of four key components. 

Good Question” is meant to grab the attention and the interest of the consumer with questions about the nutritional elements being highlighted in the compass. This is inspired by actual queries from consumers through focus group discussions and consumer feedback received by Nestlé.

Next, “Good to Know” answers the Good Question, explaining the health and wellness benefit/s that can be derived from the nutrient/s in focus. “Good to Remember” may be a lifestyle tip or a physical activity related to the nutritional benefit of the product. It can also be a suggestion on how to properly position the product in one’s daily diet.

And “Good to Talk” contains all the contact points through which consumers may give their feedback to Nestlé, including hotline, website and postal address.

Malaysian SMEs looking to Indonesia for expansion

Indonesia is, along with China, the top destination for Malaysia’s SMEs to expand their operations overseas to, according to a survey.

United Overseas Bank found that small and medium companies in the country were choosing their neighbour due to consumer demand, rapid growth and language similarity.

Following closely were Singapore, Thailand and India, the bank said, drawing from its Malaysia SME Survey 2012 report, conducted among 450 Malaysian SME owners across a number of sectors.

The survey also pointed out that two out of three Malaysian SMEs planned to grow their market base in the next three years. Of these, more than half intend to expand domestically, while the remaining 45% would do so by expanding overseas, it said.

UOB Malaysia chief executive Wong Kim Choon said that confidence in the medium-term economic outlook for Asia was driving many SMEs to expand their businesses.

“Indonesia and China have demonstrated resilience amid the economic uncertainty in the eurozone and the United States. Strong consumer demand and continued economic growth in Indonesia and China have been key considerations for Malaysian SMEs seeking expansion opportunities,” he added.

China buying more rice from Vietnam

Rice purchases by China, the world’s largest producer, may soar fourfold over the coming year after a government policy to support farm incomes drove up domestic prices, the United Nations has said.

Shipments may reach up to 2.4m tonnes, said Concepcion Calpe, a senior economist at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. That compares with a prediction of 2m tonnes last month and 600,000 tonnes in 2011, according to the FAO. While there's no shortage in China, processors increased imports to profit from the difference between domestic and overseas rates, Bai Peipei, an analyst at Beijing Shennong Kexin Agribusiness Consulting, told the Bangkok Post.

Rising imports by China may bolster prices even as world inventories tracked by the FAO swell to a record, boosted by the biggest global crop ever. Most purchases by China, which typically imports from Thailand, were of Vietnamese origin this year.

"The year 2012 marks a radical departure from China's normal pattern of purchases," Calpe wrote in an e-mail to Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO's assistant secretary general and regional representative for Asia and Pacific. "Nobody knows the actual volume of rice held in stocks by China.".

Grape seed could be key to controlling blood sugar

Grape seed extract could control blood sugar, thereby helping prevent type 2 diabetes, a recent study by Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok has found. 

Researchers gave healthy participants a high-carbohydrate meal, after which some had grape seed extract and others did not. Those who took the grape seed extract had lower blood sugar levels between 15 and 30 minutes after the meal than the control group.

Grape seed extract affects the intestinal absorption of sugar, and is a blocker of glucose in the gut, the researchers discovered, recommending patients with high blood sugar to take 150 to 300mg of grape seed extract a day alongside food.