Interview with Dr Sandhya Sriram How is COVID-19 impacting the food industry, and specifically, meat and dairy consumption? How are food businesses in Asia responding?
In people’s minds, the COVID-19 virus originated from meats/ seafoods sold at the Huanan Seafood Market in China. This has led consumers to re-think their food choices, especially around meat and seafood consumption. COVID-19 has made consumers more educated and aware of their food choices. This has led to a reduction in the purchasing and consumption of meat, predominantly among the younger population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted food supply and food safety – given that Singapore imports 90% of its food consumption, the disruption in the food supply chain has made us look more closely at local sources of food. Food businesses in Asia are having to adapt, and unfortunately, some have had to shut down due to lower demand or due to not being able to operate during the lockdown. Asia was always more open to alternative proteins than the West. Consumers are now even more open to alternative proteins given the likelihood that COVID-19 originated from a wet meat market. Consumers are much more open to listening, educating themselves and trying different alternative proteins.
For companies like us, it is the most crucial time to enhance the transparency of our processes and technology, and the education of potential consumers even more. At the time same, the path to commercialization has to be shorter to meet demand.