Healthier Choices: Calbee fruit snacks, Nestle's upcycling and plant-based initiatives, alcohol-free drinks and more feature in our round-up

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Calbee fruit snacks, Nestle's upcycling and plant-based initiatives, alcohol-free drinks and more feature in this edition of Healthier Choices. ©Getty Images
Calbee fruit snacks, Nestle's upcycling and plant-based initiatives, alcohol-free drinks and more feature in this edition of Healthier Choices. ©Getty Images

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Calbee fruit snacks, Nestle's upcycling and plant-based initiatives, alcohol-free drinks and more feature in this edition of Healthier Choices.

Fruit foray: Japan’s Calbee continues healthy NPD drive with trial sales of dried fruit snack

Japanese snack manufacturer Calbee is conducting a sales trial for a dried apple snack to test consumer interest in the country as it continues to explore healthier new product development.

Popular for its potato chips, shrimp crackers, cereals and pea snacks, the company is now selling the dried fruit snack on Calbee’s online as well as retail stores nationwide.

Satoshi Yoshida, public relations manager at Calbee, told FoodNavigator-Asia​ the company was surveying whether the dried apple products are well accepted in the market.

According to him, dried fruit snacks are still relatively new in Japan, and the company hopes to attract consumers who want a healthier snack option. Each bag of dried red apples (10g) contains 42kcal.

ASEAN ‘incredibly important’ to Nestle: Upcycling and plant-based innovation main areas of focus in upgraded R&D centre

Nestle has revealed that its newly-upgraded R&D centre in Singapore will place heavy focus on areas such as food upcycling and plant-based innovation, while also announcing the launch of a new ASEAN-specific R&D Accelerator.

The Singapore R&D Centre was upgraded in conjunction with its 40th​ anniversary, and received expanded capability updates such as upgraded laboratories, two fully-equipped test kitchens, sensory evaluation rooms and more.

According to Nestle Zone Asia, Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa (AOA) CEO Chris Johnson, the South East Asian region is ‘incredibly important’​ to the firm and the upgraded centre is crucial for it to keep up with what local consumers are looking for in food.

“South East Asia is incredibly important to Nestle – it makes up one-third of our business in the AOA region and we see a lot more opportunity for growth here too,”​ Johnson said during the relaunch event.

“We have achieved the current success we have in the region by making sure to understand local nuances and building up an understanding of each separate market, but consumer tastes are changing at a rapid pace and we need R&D centres like this one in Singapore to power the development of new products that [appeal to families] which are healthier and more sustainable.”

‘Bigger than kombucha’: New Zealand’s AF Drinks eyes Asia with alcohol-free RTD spirits

New Zealand alcohol-free ready-to-drink (RTD) spirits firm AF Drinks has its eye on the Asian market after securing significant domestic retail success within a year of launch.

AF Drinks launched its first drinks, a range of gin and tonics, into the New Zealand market in December 2020, and holds the proud distinction of being the first non-alcoholic RTD spirits brand to be listed in local supermarkets.

“We’re now in some 350 stores nationwide, mainly supermarkets, including Countdown, New World, Pak’nSave and so on, and Air New Zealand also serves our spirits on their flights,”​ AF Drinks Founder Lisa King told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“We started out with just half a shelf in the supermarket initially – now six to seven months on, we’re on four shelves so retailers are aware that this alcohol-free spirits trend is here to stay. As it is, New Zealand is a bit behind on the trend - there’s already mass growth in places like Europe and the US."

Bedtime drink: Asian markets the next priority for UK’s Sleep Well Milk with valerian-rich beverage

UK-based Sleep Well Milk is set to launch its functional dairy milk for the first time in Asia later this year, with Hong Kong and South Korea the firm’s first two targets.

First launched in 2017, the products are available on Sleep Well Milk’s online store, Amazon and retail outlets across the UK.

The company’s functional milk contains valerian, a botanical ingredient to help individuals relax and improve sleep quality.

Allan Watts, co-founder and director at Sleep Well Milk, told NutraIngredients-Asia​, valerian root has been widely used for nearly 2,000 years.

Despite a number of studies in the US and Europe, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that shows how valerian works. It is believed that valerian increases the amount of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. So, it reduces nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity and anxiety​.”

Philippines Golden Rice price pledge: GM variant to boost vitamin A levels will be commercially ‘competitive’ by 2023

Golden Rice will be priced ‘very competitively’ once it hits the market in the Philippines in 2023, after the country recently granted a world-first regulatory approval for commercial propagation.

Golden Rice is rice which has been genetically-modified to include genes that increase beta-carotene content, a pigment that converts into Vitamin A in the body, and is hoped to help reduce Vitamin A deficiency.

This deployment process will be led by the government-run Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice), and is still in the initial stages of multiplying and bulking up seed supply.

“Golden Rice will not be available to all interested parties right away – we need to undergo a pilot scale deployment  process for this first, and have put in place a stewardship protocol that will be very strict at first to ensure the purity and integrity of the rice seeds,”​ DA-PhilRice Healthier Rice Project Lead Dr. Reynante L. Ordonio told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

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