When most people see the term ’processed food’, products with excessive added sodium, sugar or fats like carbonated soft drinks, potato chips or candies usually come to mind. Does that mean processed foods are all junk foods that are bad for your body?
Well, not exactly.
The term often carries a negative connotation. However, it is important to note that food processing encompasses a broad spectrum of methods. Pasteurization of milk is a clear example of food processing. So is the milling of wheat to make flour and portioning a fish. Food processing is essential to food security and nutrition as it increases the access and availability of food, ensures food safety, and allows fortification and enrichment of nutrients.
Freshly made bread is considered processed food. So are whole wheat pasta and pre-shelled nuts. Some food processing methods are not too different from how we prepare food at home. For example, when you buy fresh seafood and freeze it for storage, there is little difference between companies freezing seafood products and packaging them for exporting.
Fresh food can be better when it is sustainable, affordable, and easily accessible. That should not mean avoiding canned, frozen, or dried products. Frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as, if not more, nutrients than their fresh counterpart. as they are often frozen so swiftly after picking to maintain vital vitamins which wane over time. Additionally, some nutrients such as lycopene, a plant-nutrient with strong antioxidant properties linked with lowered risk for prostate and other types of cancer, is easier for the body to absorb in processed tomato products like tomato paste and tomato puree compared to raw tomatoes.
If you look beyond the ‘fresh food’ label and start looking at the food safety aspect, it can paint a different picture. Take seafood as an example. Fresh seafood is often seen as healthier and safer than packaged frozen seafood. That may not always be the case. Intensive aquaculture has led to growing problems with bacterial diseases, which in turn led to more pervasive use of antimicrobials. This in turn leads to an increased risk of harmful bacterial becoming resistant to specific antibiotics. Other concerns include suspected carcinogens like PCBs (usually used in electrical equipment and as additives in paint and plastics) and fungicides used and found in farmed salmons.
Convincing people to make changes to their long-held dietary habits is not an easy task. Starting with frozen finger foods is a strategic decision to reach more people, especially flexitarians. Our plant-based products also represent a nutritious and sustainable alternative to conventional products. Coupled with the ability to offer our seafood alternatives at price parity to fish products, the barrier to entry is low for people looking to try plant-based alternatives. As we continue to innovate and learn, we plan to introduce a wider range of products to capture a larger share of flexitarians.
Growthwell Foods boasts the first production-scale high moisture extrusion (HME) line owned by a local SME in Singapore. It enables us to minimize the use of additives in our production line. Our ingredients are specifically selected to make great-tasting and nutritious plant-based products. Healthy ingredients like konjac, used in our seafood-alternative products, is high in fibre and low in calories. To ensure that our products are nutritious, we include plant-based nutrients like omega-3 from algae oil and (choose another). Even the colourings that we use originate from capsicum and beetroot.
This is Growthwell Foods’ guiding light. Making our products accessible and affordable goes hand in hand with our commitment to sustainability. We want to convince more people to adopt plant-based alternatives as part of their everyday diet with great tasting, nutritious and sustainable plant-based products. We want to make food that is not only good for you but also good for the planet. By tapping into the power of plant-based nutrients, we are committed to delivering good food products with excellent nutrition profiles to nourish 1 billion lives.