Asian hummus: Singapore team creates high protein sweet and savoury spreads for elderly

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The otah- and kaya-flavoured spreads created by Zeal Foods ©Singapore Institute of Technology
The otah- and kaya-flavoured spreads created by Zeal Foods ©Singapore Institute of Technology

Related tags Singapore Protein Spreads

A Singapore-based team has developed two high protein spreads, inspired by hummus, for the elderly population.

The year-long project formulated a kaya spread and an otah spread, made from plant-based protein. Otah is a South East Asian grilled dish made from fish meat and mixed with starch and spices. Kaya also popular in South East Asia is a jam made from coconut milk, eggs and sugar.

The team of four named Zeal Foods, come from the Food Technology programme at the Singapore Institute of Technology, and was the winner of The Big Foodivate Challenge organised by venture capital, Big Idea Ventures.

Team member, Nur Filzah Nadiah told FoodNavigator-Asia​ the idea of focusing on a protein spread was stemmed from a survey conducted on the elderly, which revealed that their diet was lacking in protein.

A 2018 national nutrition survey by Singapore’s Health Promotion Board found that one in two people above 50 years old do not meet the daily requirement of 1 to 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

However, getting the elderly to consume more protein was a matter of taste and familiarity.

For Zeal Foods, the team through the survey discovered that the elderly prioritised breakfast, and typically consumed spreads with other high energy complements.

The team thus decided to create a similar protein spread to hummus, a popular chickpea-based dip in Middle East, Europe and US. They chose to work with otah (savoury) and kaya (sweet) flavours as these were familiar in the Singapore cuisine.

We wanted to inject an Asian flair (so that) our target audience can appreciate more​,” Nur Filzah said.


The team also wanted to develop a spread that was lower in energy, sugar and fats than those on the market.

According to Nur Filzah, the kaya and otah spread contain 8g and 5g protein per 100g respectively.

The current kaya spreads in the market contain 5g of protein/100g, as well as being high in sugar and fats.

The base mixture of Zeal Foods’ spreads consisted of amaranth flakes, quinoa, pea protein, white sesame, flaxseed, and sunflower seed which mostly contributed to the protein content.

However Nur Filzah said protein was not its only differentiating point. “There are other factors which make us unique, not just a source of protein. Our spreads are also high in calcium, lower in sodium and cholesterol​.”

In addition, its kaya spread is trans-fat free, while the otah-spread is lower in saturated fat and is a source of dietary fibre and iron.

After formulation, the team also conducted a sensory evaluation on 120 elderly people, aged 64 years and above.

Through the market tests, Nur Filzah said its protein spread offered the elderly a healthier alternative that was still tasty.

We felt the elderly were struggling with finding a balance between taste and nutritious food. Furthermore, they need to overcome hurdles such as physical difficulties associated to medical conditions, which lead them to shun away from certain foods they enjoy​.”

Nur Filzah stressed, however, that its products were not targeted solely for the elderly.

We want our food to reach out to the masses, by providing a healthier option, while not compromising on the taste, with a competitive price​.”

The team was open to working with industry partners for scaling up and commercialisation opportunities in the future.

Andrew Ive, founder of Big Idea Ventures told us: “The Zeal Foods product is both nutritious and convenient, and it’s targeted at the elderly. For an ageing population like Singapore’s, where consumers might not always be financially or physically able to make themselves a healthy home-cooked meal, we need more products like Zeal Foods​.”

With 50 teams participating, the Big Foodivate Challenge was a competition for students to propose solutions in line with Singapore’s goal of achieving 30% food security by 2030.

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