A Look at Food and Drink Trends in Southeast Asia

 Ms Avanthi Ravindran, Senior Trend and Innovation Consultant at Mintel South-East Asia and India, speaks about the 2017 food and drink trends during the first installment of the year's FIA Lunch Series on 16 February in Singapore.

In Tradition We Trust, Power to the Plants, Time is of the Essence, and finally, Balancing the Scales: Health for Everyone. These describe the four key food and drink trends in Southeast (SE) Asia for 2017, which were revealed by global market intelligence agency Mintel in the first offering of Food Industry Asia’s FIA Lunch Series for the year.

“The 2017 Food and Drink Trends explore how SE Asian consumers’ evolving priorities, search for efficiency and a drive for more healthy food, will affect food and drink,” said Ms Avanthi Ravindran, Senior Trend and Innovation Consultant at Mintel South-East Asia and India.

“The trends are the result of observations, insights and predictions of more than 100 Mintel analysts from around the world who represent a range of industries that include food, drink and food service,” she added.

According to Mintel, the first key trend, “In Tradition We Trust”, is about consumers seeking comfort from modernised updates of age-old formulations, flavours and formats. Ms Ravindran said that more consumers are looking for traditional or retro-inspired products; and if there are tangible connections with the past, traditional products can also benefit from an element of trustworthiness assigned to the claims or story. Additionally, this move to the past will lead to innovations that use the familiar as a base for something that’s new, but recognisable.

Source: Mintel

Speaking about the second key trend, “Power to the Plants”, Ms Ravindran highlighted consumers’ preference for natural, simple and flexible diets, which will drive further expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations. Ms Ravidran presented research carried out by Mintel that showed that vegan and vegetarian claims were on the rise in SE Asia, with vegetarian claims increasing by 140 per cent in the period between 2012 and 2016, and vegan claims increasing by 440 per cent during the same period for food and drink launches in the region.

Mintel’s research also highlighted increased interest among SE Asian metro consumers for plant-based proteins, with 15 per cent of metro Thai and 23 per cent of metro Indonesian consumers eating non-animal sources of protein.

Source: Mintel

“Time is of the Essence” was the third food and drink trend, which suggests that the time investments required for products and meals will become as influential as nutrition or ingredient claims.

On the one hand, speed and efficiency is key; there has been a 133-per cent increase in the number of SE Asian food and drink launches with on-the-go claims in 2016, as compared to 2012. Mintel’s research has shown that, currently, 24 per cent of all food and drink launches in this region carry an on-the-go claim.

“However, on the other side, many consumers are seeking balance, which has led to products that have ‘slow’ claims, such as being slow-roasted or promising slow-release energy. There has been a 79 per cent increase in SE Asian food and drink launches that include ‘slow’ in the product description in 2016, as compared to how it was in 2012,” said Ms Ravindran.

Source: Mintel

Finally, the fourth trend, “Balancing the Scales: Heath for Everyone”, suggests that healthy food and drink are not luxuries, with inequality of access to such items a grave concern. According to Mintel’s findings, lack of access to — and the high cost of — healthy food and drink often impede lower-income consumers from purchasing healthy items, including products that are natural, organic or free from certain ingredients.

Mintel’s observations indicate that many lower-income people are at risk for food-related health issues, such as obesity and diabetes. While low household income does not directly cause these health issues, lower-income populations are more susceptible due to their lack of access to fresh food, limited time to dedicate to physical activity and high levels of stress or anxiety. Despite research showing that low-income consumers have healthy intentions, affordability is leading to the consumption of unhealthy meals.

To tackle this issue, solutions in the form of providing affordable options of healthy food and drink are needed from brands and retailers, as well as those that are developed from creative, visionary concepts to lower the price barrier of better-for-you products.

Source: Mintel

Concluding, Ms Ravindran emphasised the need to educate younger generations on the importance of a balanced diet and healthy eating.

She said, “Companies need to play their part in educating the next generation on the pitfalls of not having enough fruit and vegetables in their diets. So the education aspect becomes integral in the overall marketing of food and drink products in response to these trends.”

The FIA Lunch Series features speakers and panels on topics that are relevant to FIA’s priorities, and offer members opportunities to engage with these experts.