Health conscious Indonesians cutting down on rice

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Health conscious Indonesians cutting down on rice

Related tags: Rice, Nutrition

Rice-loving Indonesia has been seeing growth in consumption of the staple slowing as people there get more conscious about their health. 

According to Mintel, retail volumes of rice will drop to a mere 1.5% growth from 2017-21, having increased at an average annual rate of 3.5% from 2012-16.

The country is still one of the world’s biggest consumers of rice, in spite of this slowing growth. Compared to the Vietnamese, who consume a world-leading 232.5kg each, Thais (163.2kg) and Chinese (119.1kg), Indonesia weighs in in fourth place with an average per-capita consumption of 103kg, just ahead of Malaysia (100.2kg), according to Mintel estimates. 

Jodie Minotto, agency’s food and beverage research manager for Asia-Pacific, believes this flagging growth in Indonesia could be due to the rising attention given to the country’s high prevalence of diabetes. 

In light of the negativity that surrounds rice today, consumers are reacting and an interest in low-carb diets is forming​,” she said. 

Indeed, Mintel’s research found that 27% of urban Indonesians have been avoiding carbohydrates in 2017. This figure increases to a third when taking into account consumers aged 35 and above. 

Among the reasons behind this avoidance of carbs, 64% said they believed it was healthier to do so, while 37% stated that their diet plan would not allow them to eat rice.

Minotto said the glycaemic index of many popular rice varieties would continue to be an issue as cases of diabetes grow. 

Rice companies in Indonesia are looking for solutions, and unless lower GI strains of rice are developed and made widely available, rice consumption will likely continue to experience slowing growth​.” she added.

Indonesians are also starting to choose organically certified groceries. But while nearly three in 10 consumers claim they seek out organic options while shopping, just 3% of all new food and drink products launched this year in Indonesia have featured an organic claim, suggesting that companies are behind on the trend.

As many as three quarters of urban Indonesians said they had bought organic rice and noodles in the first half of 2017, even though these command premium prices for foods that are seen as staples. 

Recent food safety scandals involving rice have fuelled consumer distrust in food and drink brands, prompting them to seek reassurance in organic certifications. Urban Indonesian consumers are going for organic options because they believe them to be not only healthier, but safer as well​,” said Minotto.

Mintel found that 42% of urban Indonesian consumers associate organic food with the absence of harmful ingredients including chemical residues, and a similar number buy organic because they see them as healthier alternatives.

There is likely to be an increasing supply of organic rice going forward, particularly as organic rice farming continues to attract the interests of local farmers in Indonesia​,” Minotto added. 

To counter the impact of food safety scandals on their product, non-organic rice brands have the opportunity to provide consumers with information about where and how the rice is grown, and provide assurances of product safety​.”

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