SIA Tofu Cheesecake

Tofu cheesecake with citrus compote. Image via Singapore Airlines

APEX Insight: In the second installment of our series on in-flight health trends, we look at onboard catering initiatives that have been inspired by healthy habits from below. Asian airlines are leading the way, with Singapore Airlines’ recent introduction of its “Deliciously Wholesome” program, All Nippon Airways’ continued commitment to local tastes and Korean Air’s longstanding position as the industry’s only airline-farm hybrid.

Uptake of on-the-ground health food trends in the air is often subject to logistical constraints. Limited galley facilities and large amounts of passengers make the implementation of new meal offerings difficult – but not impossible. In-flight menus from the following Asian airlines show that the cries of health-conscious travelers have indeed been heard.

Holistic Eating: Covering All the Bases

Last month, Singapore Airlines unveiled “Deliciously Wholesome,” an in-flight catering program designed to meet the needs of its health-conscious clientele. SIA’s vice-president of In-Flight Services, Angeline Khoo, said, “We have been noticing a rising trend among our customers towards healthier meal choices, based on passenger feedback and focus groups with our frequent fliers.” The new range of gourmet options is high in lean protein and good fats, rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calorie content. Intended to nourish the body, especially on long-haul flights, the dishes are prepared using an array of carefully selected ingredients such as whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, seeds, nuts, herbs and spices. Super foods like quinoa and goji berries are incorporated because of their double-duty properties: they are incredibly nutritious and filling. Bland salads are bedecked with fresh herbs and sophisticated proteins like nuts and lobster.

SIA in-flight meal

Chilean sea bass on a bed of kale and quinoa salad with tomato jelly and almond flakes. Image via Singapore Airlines

Examples of newly introduced fare include Chilean sea bass on a bed of kale and quinoa salad with tomato jelly and almond flakes; and baked herb marinated salmon with potato, boiled eggs, beets and arugula salad in dijon mustard vinaigrette – both of which are teeming with essential fatty acids and omega 3s. For dessert, SIA offers tofu cheesecake with citrus compote and fresh strawberries – a gluten-free, dairy-free alternative to the run-of-the-mill synthetic sponge cake.

Localizing Regional Cuisine

In September 2013, All Nippon Airways launched “Tastes of JAPAN,” a program that brings regional beverages and foods to ANA flights and airport lounges on an ongoing basis. By sourcing food from resident suppliers, ANA intends to raise the profile of Japan’s lesser-known prefectures and boost the consumption of regional agricultural products. Doing so also shortens the timespan between harvest and airplane table tray, which safeguards from nutrient depletion and promotes a safer food supply chain by minimizing opportunities for contamination during harvesting, washing shipping and distribution.

ANA panna cotta

Panna cotta made from Kyoto milk. Image via All Nippon Airways

The current phase of the project features products from the Aomori, Kyoto and Saga prefectures until the end of May 2016. In first class, passengers can feast on Aomori-grown O-irase garlic pork spareribs and rice known for its subtle sweetness in flavour, also from the region. In business class, seer fish and “Tenshi no Uta,” another rice variety, stand in for the Saga prefecture. The menu also includes marinated prawn, flavoured with horseradish and paired with pickled turnip grown in Kyoto. Travelers passing through Narita and Haneda Airports can stop off at the ANA suite lounge to enjoy panna cotta made of milk from Kyoto.

Jedong Ranch to Airport Lunch

“[Korean Air] carries the freshest organic food of any,” writes Niko Loukas, founder of Inflight Feed. And as the world’s only airline to own and operate its own organic farm (through its subsidiary Korea Airport Service), how could it not? The airline’s Jedong Ranch is located 400 meters above sea level on the picturesque slopes of Mount Hallasan on Jeju Island, just off the south coast of South Korea. Here, the airline grows the produce and breeds the beef and chickens that will be fed to passengers on board as part of the carrier’s “From Farm to Fly” program.

Korean Air is the world’s only airline to own and operate its own organic farm.

The farm’s over 2000 cattle and 5000 chicken are fed antibiotic-free, organic feed made from wheat, oats and corn grown on the ranch. Most of the veggies served on flight, including bok choy, peppers and cherry tomatoes, are hydroponically reared on the island. Even the bottled water served on board is extracted from a volcanic mineral spring on the island. All produce and meat from the ranch is sent to Inchen Airport catering center, the largest airline cooking facility in all of Asia. By cultivating its own ingredients, Korean Air ensures that its specialty bibimbap dish is top-grade every time.

For more on in-flight health trends, read A Toast to Good Health: Airline Beverage Offerings That Won’t Leave Pax High and Dry