Food industry in Southeast Asia is not only the third largest import hub in Asia continent for foods from various places, the region is also the source of agricultural raw materials (chicken meat, seafood, cereal, fruits, and herbs). Thailand has been considered a food processing centre for the region. Since 2016, an ASEAN economic integration and international investment connections were declared and took place as a result of the trend in economic changes and connections leading to urbanization in every region within ASEAN. Expansion of transportation structures; migration driven by industrial density; and economic growth have created a food consumption trend that results from expansion in food retails, as follows:
Meals with reduced preparation time or those giving convenience in eating such as foods or beverages that are ready to eat by simply combining, cooking or reheating, including breakfast cereals, frozen foods, instant soups, or even foods with a portion size divided for one serving meal. Besides, in response to the need of convenience in food preparation duration in service businesses such as hotels, airlines, hospitals, and restaurants, they also look for products that are readily incorporated into foods such as soup concentrates, seasoning sauces, or mixed sauces with basic flavours; salad dressings, or variety-increasing topping creams, and frozen raw material products (e.g. baking flour, pasta flour or sauces, or dessert fillings) for incorporation and cooking to instantly serve, as a reduction in fresh raw material storage and preparation steps.
Apart from convenience, consumers nowadays have demands for foods that, in effect, promote good health, including safe raw material production process. As a result, food products in categories with reduced sweetness, reduced sugar absorption, increased fibre, reduced salt, or reduced usage amount of fat derived from frying have been increasing, including foods for consumption or snacks which are more health conscious, as well as groups of alternative raw materials such as plants being protein sources, colour rice cereal being sources of energy giving starch in addition to wheat flour, and groups of raw materials derived from organic-based production, have been constantly increasing.
With the nature of consumer demands placing emphasis on lifestyle behaviour based convenience that has become more unique; online distribution with increased access to specific goods; and goods production consistent with specific demand creation are channels that are in line with the income increase guidelines of nations with Innovation Economy 4.0, on the basis of lifestyle based demand creation with introduced innovations, creativity, cultural diversity in culture and sources of raw materials, or local consumption that would help create food industry competitiveness.
In order to make the business of food service and product able to be designed in line with specific consumer groups, the food ingredients industry is considered the key to bringing about varieties and specialty of functional foods, which such innovative food products can be distributed in the context of the world market.
It can be said that the food ingredients industry represents a food industry platform, in which technologies are employed to give agricultural raw materials added values and make them functional raw materials for product design and quality management in terms of smell and flavour, texture, freshness and appearance, for which technology innovations are required in production. Generally food ingredients are grouped by operating functions i.e. nutrient or pharmaceutical additives; acidity controls; colour and odour additives; emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners; handling of foam bubble creation and reduction; humectants; antimicrobial preservatives; and food cultures. These raw material food ingredients produced an industry that would expand, increasing the values of agricultural commodities and being a key element that serves as a basic component to innovative food products which, with creativity and local uniqueness incorporated, become distributable in the world market. With that, growth in the industrial groups of functional food ingredients has ensued in terms of value chain creation, accommodating 4.0 model economic growth for agricultural and food industries in Thailand and ASEAN region, with innovations based on biodiversity of available raw materials.
Asst. Prof. Dr. Chutima Waisarayutt
Associate Dean for Business Relation, Department of Agro-Industrial Technology