(source: Thailand Investment Review, November 2016)
Globally known as the “Kitchen of the World,” Thailand’s food industry plays a major role in the nation’s economy, with a total export value in 2015 of roughly THB 897 million and a growth rate of 13% over the past 5 years, according to the National Food Institute.
It is not only the food industry that is one of the key drivers of Thailand’s economy. With world-class medical services along with the unprecedented surge in popularity of the medical sector in the past few years, Thailand is poised to be the “Medical Hub of Asia” with over 2 million medical tourists visiting Thailand annually and a strong growth rate of roughly 11% from 2009 to 2014.
Combining these two successful industries provides the perfect investment landscape for medical food in Thailand.
The Emergence of Medical Food
As defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), medical foods are specifically formulated for the use of the dietary management of malnourished patients with various kinds of diseases in which the products must be used under a physician’s supervision.
The demographic shift to an ageing population and the increased number of patients visiting Thailand are the key drivers of the medical food sector. According to the United Nations, the number of people aged 60 or older in the world is projected to increase by 56 % from 2015 and 2030, from 901 million to more than 1.4 billion.
This upcoming trend was confirmed by Thai Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a major Thai-Japanese pharmaceutical company which recently increased their investment in Thailand to cater to this growing demand.
As Thailand strives to enhance its capabilities and gain a competitive edge in advanced technology, including medical food, continuous research and development in cutting-edge innovation and technological advancements are being implemented across the country, utilizing the examples of Nutri-Jelly, an inventive but also practical solution which originated from King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s concern to tackle the country’s pressing problem.
Royally-bestowed Nutri-Jelly for Patients
Nutri-Jelly was conceived and developed to resolve malnutrition as well as to improve the quality of life of patients, mainly patients who suffer from oral cancer and require feeding tubes. The feeding tube procedure is invasive and can require lengthy stays in hospital, and also increases the risk of aspiration pneumonia. Serving as an innovative solution, Nutri-Jelly is extremely soft, making it easy to consume even for those who have difficulty in chewing and swallowing, and contains all essential nutrients, all the more important for hospitalized patients.
After the successful fabrication of Nutri-Jelly, under the leadership of the Dental Innovation Foundation under Royal Patronage and prominent Thai experts, 840,000 packages were graciously provided to 18,000 patients. Nutri-Jelly has greatly assisted patients in improving their dietary conditions ultimately leading to a stronger physical and mental recovery.
While Nutri-Jelly has not yet been commercialized, it has shown promising potential of being further developed to provide practical solutions not only to designated patients, but to a much broader group of consumers.
BOI fully supports the Medical Food sector
Prioritized as one of Thailand’s targeted industries, both generous tax and non-tax incentives are being offered to fully support current and prospective investors in the medical food sector. Tax incentives include 8 year exemption on corporate income tax plus the duty-free import of machinery. Non-tax incentives include the right to possess land and support in work and visa permits. With accelerated demand and strong investment incentives, there isn’t a better time to invest in this up-and-coming sector.