Government action needed: Political pressure key for Indonesian F&B firms to propel reformulation

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food and beverage companies in Indonesia have cited government regulations as the major factors for reformulation. ©Getty Images
Food and beverage companies in Indonesia have cited government regulations as the major factors for reformulation. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Indonesia, reformulation, Policy

Food and beverage companies in Indonesia have cited government regulations as the major factor for reformulation, in a country where 28% of the adult population is overweight, 22% is obese, and 35% of deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease.

In a new report from Food Industry Asia (FIA) and IGD, which covered research conducted on both consumers and F&B firms, 83% of companies had undertaken reformulation, with 89% stating their main motivation behind this to be to ‘respond to government regulations’​.

“[The] current reformulation priorities in Indonesia are the reduction of sodium, salt, sugar and trans-fat and the fortification of products with protein, dietary fibres and vitamins and minerals - priorities which are also in line with the consumer trends in Indonesia,”​ FIA Policy Director Steven Bartholomeusz told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Government pressure came ahead of the next closest motivation factor, to ‘improve public heath’​, which stood at 78% overall, potentially exhibiting the importance of government-spearheaded policies and incentives to push these companies ahead in their reformulation efforts.

Additionally, around 50% of Indonesian companies already consider their products to be ‘healthy enough’​, but a whopping 94% stated that they ‘would be encouraged to do more R&D if there were more government incentives’​.

This is likely due to the costs involved in reformulation efforts, and indeed, the research found budget limitation to be the top challenge overall when it came to reformulation in the country, even more so than maintaining consumer acceptability and product taste profiles.

“For [reformulations regarding fortifying with] protein, the biggest challenge was budget limitations,”​ said the report authors.

This could also be why many firms are focusing reformulation efforts on areas such as nutrient enhancement or other types of fortification, even big firms such as Nestle.

“The reformulation focus in our company in the context of healthier product reformulation are [the] reduction of sugar, salt, saturated fats and the improvement of micronutrient fortification profiles,” ​Nestle Indonesia VP-Head of Manufacturing Services David Hari Tjahjono told us.

However, these areas also carry their own challenges: For example, maintaining product taste profiles and consumer acceptability were seen as key challenges when it came to salt reduction, according to the report.

Taxes and guidelines

At present, Indonesia has a supplementation and fortification programme in place that aims to address major nutrient deficiencies (Vitamin A and zinc in children, iron and folic acid in pregnant women, salt iodisation, wheat fortification).

Its Long-Term National Development Plan (2020-2025) also includes nutrition as a major component – but the industry seems to be of the opinion that this is not enough.

“50% [of companies surveyed] were concerned that there is a lack of clear national nutrition targets/guidelines, and the same number were concerned that reformulation could compromise the quality of products,”​ said the report.

The companies also stated that ‘The [Indonesian] government is not pushing hard on reformulation compared to other Asian markets’​ and described it as a ‘difficult market to access’​ due to concerns surrounding licensing and FDA standards.

At present, Indonesia does not have any sugar-sweetened beverage taxes or national reformulation programmes for the food industry in place.

Consumer angle

That said, any sluggishness in reformulation efforts in the country is certainly not for lack of consumer demand.

“Based on the study, nearly 90% of consumers are happy for the industry to reformulate as long as the products are still tasty,”​ added Bartholomeusz.

“So the gold standard for companies in Indonesia is to improve the nutritional quality of their food and beverage portfolios while maintaining the existing taste and flavour profiles of their products.”

That said, as previously mentioned the maintenance of consumer acceptability and product taste profiles also ranked second and third respectively in terms of F&B companies’ main challenges, further emphasising the need for governmental support and incentives in order to boost local reformulation efforts.

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