is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC
This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
Rapid urbanisation and rising incomes are transforming Thailand’s food and drink industry – and there is still a lot of room for innovation as food makers scramble to keep up with shifting consumer trends.
Thailand is in the midst of moving from a predominantly rural country to a predominantly urban one, and this is having a strong effect on its food and beverage industry. Education levels and incomes are on the rise – and so are diet-related health problems. Increasingly, food manufacturers are aiming to answer the demands of Thailand’s changing demographics, from young affluent consumers looking for premium foods and drinks, to busy urbanites seeking a balance between convenience and health, and elderly consumers interested in foods that boost vitality in easy-to-open packaging.
“It is clear that Thai consumers want to eat healthier,” said Suddhanya Gisbert, Thailand Insight Analyst at Mintel. “Mintel research reveals that four in five metro Thai consumers said that they’d like to have a healthier diet in 2018.”
Food and drink makers have responded with a wave of new products that emphasise health and wellness. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), all healthy ingredient claims have increased since 2016.
Minus claims, such as low/no/reduced sugar or fat, featured on 17% of new products launched in Thailand in 2018, up from 11% two years earlier. Ten per cent carried a functional claim, to support brain health or digestion, for example, up from 7% in 2016. And plus claims, such as added vitamins, minerals or protein, appeared on 10% of all new food and drink products, up five percentage points over the same period.
“Another thing about healthy eating is that it is also driving the popularity of food and drink products that use plants such as fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds or herbs in their formulations,” said Gisbert. “…Metro Thai consumers often associate healthiness with a product made with natural ingredients. Likewise, food and drink brands are also incorporating plant ingredients in their products.”
Among product launches positioned as healthy, a quarter featured vegetables as ingredients in 2018, according to GNPD data. Meanwhile, nuts and seeds are also on the rise, featuring in 16% of such products.
This matches a broader, global shift toward plant-based eating, as more consumers choose to eat less meat for health, animal welfare, food safety and/or environmental reasons. In Thailand, plant-based ingredients are most closely associated with good health, while environmental concerns have tended to be a lower priority. However, this may be beginning to change.
“Sustainable consumption is still very much an emerging trend in Thailand,” said Gisbert. “However, our research has found that consumers who are taking action to help protect the environment are growing from a small base—this reflects a positive sign for this trend to grow further in the market.”
Thailand lags behind the Asia Pacific region as a whole when it comes to sustainability claims for food and drink launches. In 2018, just 6% of new foods and drinks in Thailand claimed to have eco-friendly packaging, for example, compared to 12% across the Asia Pacific region. However, Gisbert highlighted sustainable consumption as a growing trend, given that the number of new products carrying sustainability-related claims continues to grow year on year.
“In 2018, a fifth of metro Thai consumers agreed that helping to protect the environment is an important factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “…This is up from just 13% in 2016.”
Average household size has fallen rapidly in Thailand, from 3.8 in 2000 to 3.1 in 2018, and the number of single-person households and small-sized families is growing. Gisbert suggests this could provide opportunities for food and drink brands to develop products designed for smaller households, such as portion-controlled packs.
Convenience and cost are other attributes to consider in both product and packaging design when creating foods and drinks intended for smaller households.
“So far, convenience stores are the main channels providing products that match the needs of this group of consumers, particularly by offering products that come in smaller sizes or in a single pack,” she said. “That said, there is a lot more room for product innovation in this space.”