Four top trends driving F&B innovation in Asia

Asia’s food and beverage sector is a hot bed of innovation, buoyed by rising incomes, a growing interest in new products and a surge in knowledge about health and wellness. While each market has its own local nuances, tastes and preferences, it is possible to identify some key megatrends that are shaping the industry region-wide. Here are our top four:

Trend 1: The power of plants​

Many Asian nations have a long-history of vegetarianism, but across the board, there is a rising interest in plant-based products, especially proteins.

Research published by Mintel in April revealed that as many as two in five (39%) urban Indonesians and one in three (34%) urban Thais consumed more non-animal sources of protein (e.g. plant, dairy, grains) in 2017, compared to the previous year. Mintel’s research also highlighted that 24% of urban Indonesians planned to follow a plant-based/vegetarian diet in this year.

This has led to a surge of new products being launched across the region, including plant-based seafood alternatives from Sophie’s Kitchen, and egg-free scrambled eggs from Just – with products derived from pea, mung bean and soy proving especially popular.

Trend 2: Slashing sugar

Reformulation is one of the hottest topics occupying the industry in Asia, as governments clamp down on high sugar products. Countries including Thailand, Philippines and Borneo have introduced some form of sugar tax, meaning brands and their suppliers have been striving to reformulate their products.

Stevia remains a popular alternative, and earlier this year Coca-Cola launched its stevia version in several APAC markets.

“Consumers want the same taste as the drinks they grew up with, but don’t want the kilojoules,” said a spokesman.  “Our team and our partners have spent almost ten years working with stevia. It was not as simple as finding a sweetener and swapping that out for sugar. It had to have a taste that people will love.”

Away from stevia, there are also emerging ingredients and technologies starting to surface across a range of categories. In Malaysia, Holister Colltech has a pioneering solution for low-GI noodles, while Amai Proteins is using computational design to create super-sweet ingredients from fruits suitable for use in dairy, bakery and confectionery applications.

Trend 3: Soaring snackification

Snackification is the Asian industry’s favourite buzzword in 2018, with companies seeing soaring demand for ‘on-the-go’ products that are nutritious, but also taste great. According to Mordor Intelligence, the APAC snack market is forecast to grow at almost 6% CAGR between 2018-2023 as busy consumers seek a quick fix.

However, the challenge for industry is to provide healthy options as consumers have become increasingly concerned about the negative health aspects associated with conventional snack bars. There is a significant demand for natural healthy snacks, such as granola or muesli barsas they are perceived as being a more natural alternative traditional snack bars.

There is also considerable potential across the region to incorporate locally-grown seeds and grains such as hemp and kodo millet, and create less sweet products more attuned to the Asian palate.

Trend 4: Sourcing local

Just like with snacks, there are huge opportunities for food firms to tap into consumer demand for more local and regional ingredients. In much of Asia, these have strong natural and traditional connotations, and provide manufacturers the opportunity to show how they can meet local tastes.

For example, the number of new product launches containing durian – South East Asia’s so-called King of Fruits – have rocketed, spanning the dairy, bakery, confectionery and even coffee categories in the past 12 months.

And anything originating from Korea continues to be incredibly popular, especially in South East Asia, with fermented products such as kimchi and gochuchang some of the most on-demand flavours, especially for convenience foods.