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This year onsite at Fi Asia, Pearly Neo, Editor at FoodNavigator-Asia shared some key insights into the top trends in the food industry in the APAC region. While some trends span the entire region, Neo also indicated several trends unique to certain countries which is helpful in our understanding of both local and regional opportunities.
Across the South-East Asia region, one of the key trends is sugar reduction and product reformulation. This is largely in response to the introduction of sugar taxes in a number of countries across the region, instigated by governments in an attempt to tackle rising rates of obesity. To comply with these taxes, companies in the region have been encouraged to reduce sugar content and consider product reformulations. Interestingly, these taxes do not extend to food service establishments where there is still a high demand for very sugary drinks such as bubble tea, which leads us to consider how much of a success the sugar tax has been.
Another trend in the region is the growing demand for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. There have been big launches for Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat in Hong Kong and Singapore, with the entire region seeing a large increase in the amount of vegetarian options on offer. Cultured meats are also on the radar, with a number of start-ups active in the region who are looking to bring their products to the market in the not so distant future.
Although there has been a significant increase in interest in meat and dairy alternatives, Neo predicts that Asia is still a long way off the scale of Europe’s alternative food market. In various countries in the APAC region meat is a sign of wealth, with people not consuming meat for religious or economic reasons. These cultural factors will shape the uptake in the meat and dairy alternative markets, which ultimately may not have as far a reach as they experience in European markets.
The plant-based trend is not only growing in South East Asia, but also in China where both local and international companies are expanding their plant-based options. Although still in its infancy, this is a market with huge growth potential.
Another big shift in China is that local infant formula has now hit an all-time high safety level, and with government support, the local formula market is expected to see huge growth in the coming years, following hard times in the past due to the various scandals. While China has for many years been the global technology leader, we are also seeing some interesting changes in the market, with some moves from online to offline. A good example of this is Aliababa’s Hippo Fresh range of stores – a technically advanced physical retail store.
Focusing again on South East Asia, anyone who has travelled in this region will be familiar with durian, a superfood fruit with a strong, distinctive smell. In order to create hype and generate food tourism, many countries are working to encourage durian tourism to highlight this unique regional product. With examples such as durian tourism, and understanding the importance of localisation, at Fi Asia this year we focused on the local by honing in on unique ingredients on offer in the region. The increased use of local ingredients can benefit tourism, and it is also a great way for companies to reduce costs.
Looking to Japan, Neo stated that convenience is king. As daily life becomes busier and busier, with increasing demands on professional and social time, Japanese consumers are seeking products that can be prepared quickly, but remain tasty. Alongside the growth of the experiential market, Japanese consumers want new, strange, and visually appealing products, which allows companies to get creative with marketing and promotion to spark interest.
Shifting focus to India, Neo confirmed that Indian consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious, with the nutricosmetics market seeing huge growth in recent years. Results of a survey carried out by Mintel shows that 37% of the overall adult population consume supplements regularly, which is expected to continue to grow.
The snacking market in India also has huge potential, with over 60% of Indian consumers snacking at least twice a day. Over 50% of Indian snackers expressed an interest in healthier options and manufacturers have been advised to focus on healthy, localised snacks to appeal to this audience.
While APAC is seeing common trends such as sugar reduction, product reformulation, and growth in meat and dairy alternative markets, as Neo highlights there are trends and opportunities specific to each country. As we continue to produce Fi Asia we will share local and regional knowledge to continue to identify trends and to work effectively in this dynamic region.