Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific



Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the

Food Innovation Asia Conference 2012

BITEC, Bangkok
14 June 2012


Dr Ampol Senanarong, Privy Councilor,
Ms Darunee Edwards, President of Food Science and Technology Association of Thailand (FoSTAT),
Dr.Gordon L.Robertoson, International Union of FoSTAT,
Distinguished speakers, guests, participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I wish to express my appreciation to FoSTAT and co-organizers for inviting me for this important gathering. Today’s my keynote speech requested by the Organizer is “Technologies Shaping the Future”, and accordingly I will focus on the theme from food security and food industry angles.

The ability of the agricultural and food industries to respond to the substantial increase in demand for fresh and processed foods over the next 20 to 30 years will be highly dependent on the increased application of existing technologies as well as the exploitation of new and innovative technologies. The increased demand for food will emanate both from predicted population growth but perhaps even more importantly from broad based economic development in the region and the associated dietary changes that are currently taking place. In the course of this presentation I would like to focus on the Asia Pacific Region and to discuss the topic from both developmental and technical perspectives.

Asia and the Pacific Region:
• Is home to more than two-thirds of the developing world’s population
• Is home to nearly two-thirds of the developing world’s undernourished population
• Has a prevalence rate of 16 percent of undernourishment, second only to that of Africa

Ninety one percent of the undernourished in Asia and the Pacific, live in 6 countries. India, has by far the largest number of undernourished.

According to data from UNESCAP, the region’s population growth rate has been steadily declining over the last two decades and currently averages at around 1 %.

The Region’s urban population is projected to grow by over 580 million people between 2000 and 2020, an increase of about 45 percent. Currently, the region ranks second globally in terms of urbanization rate, which averages at 2.0 % per annum.

The region has a strong culture of food. For the most part, consumers in this region show a high level of demand for- and interest in foods that conform to local taste and cultural preference and a majority of consumers in rural areas and in the mass market, prioritize the consumption of traditional foods. These tastes and cultural preferences are well known to small and medium local food processors, and to cottage industry who produce products to meet the demand of that market. Consumer food habits and preferences in urban centres across the region, are, however changing.

Increasing per capita incomes, rapid urbanization, lifestyle changes, and the liberalization of foreign direct investment in the food processing sector are bringing about quite a lot of change in food supply systems across the region. These changes are taking place in both the retail sector as well as in the production sector.

Rapid economic development in many countries of the region is leading to an increase in the number of middle income earners, particularly in urban centres. With their increasing incomes consumer demand for quality, convenience, and variety is increasing. As consumers become more aware and educated, they are also more concerned about nutrition, health and wellness and are less concerned about taste and price. Consumers increasingly pay attention to product labelling to learn about the nutritional content of food, including information on calories, fat and sugar. Products containing fortified nutrients for extra health benefits, such as vitamins, omega-3 or minerals such as Calcium , are also gaining popularity with consumers.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Urbanization has also resulted in a higher level of female participation in the work force and with that a shift away from traditional time-intensive food preparation, to increasing demand for convenience

Among urban households, particularly higher-income households, there is a trend toward consumption of convenience foods including packaged food products and particularly ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods. Where the urban poor are concerned, however, the shift towards fast and convenience foods, however, implies a shift away from fresh fruits and vegetables, pulses, potatoes and other roots and tubers towards diets that are high in sugar, fat and salt.

Growth in the demand for convenience foods has resulted in rapid growth in the Region’s packaged food sector. The Graph here, highlights the case of Viet Nam, where retail sales of packaged foods have continuously shown double digit growth on an annual basis since 2005, with projections for a continued growth trend to 2014.
Here we see the range of packaged foods being purchased in Viet Nam. These which include baby foods, dried products, confectionery, chilled and frozen foods , ready meals etc. Of note is the considerable growth in chilled and frozen processed foods which showed a 20 % increase between 2005 and 2009.

Ready-to-eat foods are indeed one of the largest growth sectors in the packaged food market in this region as consumers become busier in their working lives with little time for meal preparation. An AC. Nielsen Survey conducted in 2007, revealed that Thai consumers lead the world as the most frequent buyers of ready-to-eat (RTE) meals, with 75 percent claiming they have no time to prepare proper meals from scratch. Retail sales of ready meals in India and China grew 26.9 percent and 11.8 percent respectively from 2003 to 2008 compared to a meager 2.8 percent in the US and 2.0 percent in the UK.

Ready-to-cook meals are growing in popularity among middle class consumers where microwave cooking is prevalent and is socially acceptable

Along with the changes in consumption trends which I have just described, purchasing patterns in urban centres are also changing with increased shopping for packaged food in hyper and supermarkets rather than in small grocery stores. The number of supermarkets and hypermarkets across the region continues to show an increasing trend. Selected products, such as chilled processed food and cheeses, often exclusively distributed through supermarkets/hypermarkets or food specialist retailers in urban centres.

With growth in foreign direct investment in the food processing sector in the region, a number of multinationals are entering the food manufacturing sector and mergers and acquisitions taking place. Many of these manufacturers engage in customizing products to meet local consumer tastes and preferences..

This figure, courtesy of Technopak, India, highlights all of the changes which I have just described in terms of household income and changes in consumption, within the Indian context. As you can see, at the bottom of the pyramid, where incomes are lowest, the key concern is that of meeting basic nutrition, with consumption of only essential basic processed foods. As incomes increase, diets change with increasing consumption of meat and milk, to the consumption of packaged and processed foods and so called “indulgence foods” such as wine, cheese and gourmet foods at the top of the pyramid.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

So what do all of these growing and changing trends in food consumption mean, for future technological development of the region’s food processing sector?

Given the diversity of incomes and food needs and demands of consumers in the region, the application of a gradient of levels of food processing technology will shape the horizon of the packaged food sector.  These technologies will range from simple “appropriate” levels of technology applicable to processing foods to address the food security and nutritional requirements of low income consumers in rural and urban centers, to conventional processing technologies that target import substitution. Relatively more sophisticated levels of technology and product and packaging innovations that respond to market pull factors related to consumer demand for wholesomeness, natural products and health benefit will predominate at the top of the gradient.
 The lower end of the technological gradient will emphasize process innovation, geared toward streamlining, automating and improving the shelf-life, quality and cost-effective packaging of traditional foods produced primarily at the rural and cottage level, while the top end of the gradient will focus on product and packaging innovations geared competitively responding to market pull.

Simple or non-invasive diagnostic technologies designed to assure consumers of the freshness and safety of the foods that they purchase and consume will also continue to be developed.

Greater attention will be paid to the environmental soundness of processing and packaging technologies and to the re-usability and recyclability of their bye-products.

In terms of the application of food processing technologies, along the gradient I have just described, it is projected that simple appropriate levels of technology such as drying, salt preservation, spontaneous fermentation and osmotic dehydration will continue to be applied to address the food security and nutritional requirements of low income consumers.

Technologies such as canning, freezing, pasteurization and sterilization will continue to be adopted by countries to address import substitution.

At the higher end of the technological scale, new and innovative technologies such as micro-encapsulation, super-critical extraction , controlled fermentation and microwave drying and innovations in food packaging will continue to be developed and applied, largely in higher income countries.

Effective food safety management systems will be an essential criterion for the successful use and application of these technologies in meeting the food needs of the region.
In the coming decades, it will also be necessary to accord greater attention to the environmental soundness of technologies applied in the food processing sector, as well as the efficient and profitable utilization of their by-products and wastes. Growing depletion of natural resources coupled with consumer concern for the environment and social responsibility in food production, will lead to an increased focus on sustainability issues such as the efficient use of water and energy, prevention and reduction of waste, re-use and recycling in processing operations and technologies that facilitate waste recovery to help in preserving the environment, as well as delivering social and economic sustainability.

Issues of sustainability must apply along the entire food supply chain from agricultural production through ingredients, product and packaging manufacture to storage and distribution via wholesale, retail or food service outlets. More objective data from relevant life cycle analyses will be required to properly evaluate the contribution that different components make to the carbon footprint of food supply chains.

Key technical enabling factors for development of food processing technologies for the future include:

Scientific developments in a range of disciplines – molecular biology, genomics, nanoscience, environmental, material and computer sciences will continue to support the development of environmentally sound processing and packaging technologies. Developments in nutrition, human physiology and plant and animal sciences will also continue to provide useful information that will drive and orient these technological developments

Innovations that improve the design, control and efficiency of food preservation and processing technologies and which contribute to reducing their waste streams will be a critical enabling factor for the region’s food processing sector.

Improvements in diagnostic and identification systems will enhance specificity, sensitivity and the speed of microbial testing, thereby making it possible to monitor food safety, trace microorganisms through the food chain, and assisting with the rapid identification of the causal agents of foodborne illness.
Information and communication technologies that facilitate the monitoring of safety and the flow of information within food value chains will continue to grow, in order to address consumer safety concerns, and to facilitate marketing and trade. Technologies that facilitate and support traceability within food supply chains such as ICT, the logistics for material and product handling, storage, and transportation throughout chains from production through handling will be equally important.

Cost effective and environmentally friendly packaging options will also play a critical role.

These technological developments must be supported by policies and incentives that are conducive to the development of the food processing sector and which provide for the

  • uptake and adoption of more efficient processing technologies;
  • improved access to financial resources for micro and small food processing enterprises;
  • increased local and foreign investment in the food processing sector;
  • broadening of market opportunities of the region’s packaged foods; and,
  • research, development and networking among scientists and technologists to improve technical capacities in food processing and packaging.

Policies that govern food safety and the sustainability of processing technologies must be addressed across all developmental scenarios and at all technological levels. Food Safety policies must provide for the development and enforcement of appropriate regulations, as well for the implementation of integrated quality management systems including GAP, HACCP and GMP that assure safety throughout the food chain.

Policies must likewise promote the adoption of clean technologies that make efficient use of both energy and water. Emphasis must be placed on the reuse and recycling of bye-products and effluent streams generated by processing operations so as to ensure environmental sustainability. Incentives that reward the application of clean technologies and the efficient re-use and upgrading of bye-products must, therefore, be promoted to meet this end.

FAO plays a role in: helping countries to develop technical capacities to assure clean and environmentally friendly value chains. FAO also assists countries in the development and design of policies and strategies geared toward the use, application and adoption of food processing technologies that draw on the local raw material base, to meet their basic food needs, and to address import substitution and competitiveness.

Thank you.


Presentation: Technologies Shaping the Future