Specialist research, training and consultancy group Ecovia Intelligence reported a successful conclusion to the first-ever Asia-Pacific edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit held in Singapore late November. About 100 senior executives from the regional food industry attended, with discussions centering on sustainability developments, organic market potential, health impacts, and food ingredients.

The summit opened with a keynote from Raj Seelam, CEO of Sresta Natural BioProducts, the founder of the leading organic food company in India, who said organic is the most sustainable form of agriculture because of its low environmental impacts, as well as social and health benefits.

Anne Gabriel from Marine Stewardship Council highlighted the potential for sustainable seafood in the Asia-Pacific. The organisation aims to take 20 percent share of global marine catch by 2020, and a third by 2030.

In another paper, Andy Sweetman from Futamura made the case for bioplastics. Highlighting the environmental impact of plastic packaging (8 million tonnes going into the ocean each year), he called for greater adoption of plant-based packaging materials by food and beverage companies.

Marg Will, CEO of Organic Systems and Solutions, Australia, gave an update on sustainability certification schemes. She believes the future is with traceability, block-chain measures, and new technologies.

Some of the major obstacles in the Asian organic food industry were debated in the second session. In the opening seminar, Amarjit Sahota from Ecovia Intelligence showed that Asia had become a leading producer of organic foods, yet consumption was lagging behind Europe and North America in spite of the region having some of the most affluent consumers.

Tan Jian from OFDC China said that milk and dairy was one of the fastest growing sectors of the Chinese organic food market. Standards inconsistency and labelling issues were cited as the major pitfalls when entering the Chinese market.

Nielsen highlighted some of the health and wellness trends stimulating demand for organic and sustainable foods. Digital media is expected to play an important role in the future, helping consumers make healthy and sustainable choices.

Callie Tai, CEO and co-founder of the leading health & organic food shop in Malaysia JustLife, shared her story in encouraging consumers to lead a healthy lifestyle. Education plays a key role, with the company arranging organic farm visits, an Earth day carnival, and campaigns for earth-friendly beauty products.

Eugene Wang, founder and CEO of Sophie’s Kitchen, called for more plant-based proteins in Asian diets. The company is using konjac flour, algae, and yellow peas to create seafood alternative products.

An inspiring seminar was given by H.E. Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, Bhutan Minister of Agriculture and Forests. The small Himalayan country is often cited as the ‘poster child’ of sustainability; it is one of the leading advocates of organic farming, a major producer of clean energy and is carbon positive. According to the minister, the country faces many challenges when combining sustainable farming and environmental stewardship because of its mountainous terrain.

The 2018 editions of the Sustainable Food Summits will be hosted in North America (30-31 January, San Francisco); Europe (14-15 June, Amsterdam); Asia-Pacific (4-5 September, Singapore); and Latin America (November, São Paulo). More information is available from www.sustainablefoodssummit.com