Predicting Asia Pacific’s Top Food Trends

You are what you eat – FIA shares highlights of a new report on Food Trends by Weber Shandwick, which points to a change in Asian consumer habits due to technology, and a growing concern about food safety. This article has been contributed by PublicAffairsAsia.

In the case of consumers in Australia, Singapore, Korea and China the report has dissected habits to reveal top trends affecting the food industries.

Evident from the report’s findings is the inexorable blurring of lines between habits in Asian and ‘western’ markets as digital media and technologies pervade the marketplace. Yet Asian markets retain their traditional trends too with shopping and dining habits still largely dictated by home-grown tastes.

The international food scene continues to grow in some quarters with Singaporean and Australian palettes. Yet 86% of Chinese consumers want locally produced food. It is an affinity shared by Korea where foreign produced food attracts just 7% of the surveyed market.

The paradox is that "Seoul Food" is enjoying an international renaissance as Korean culture has fed an explosion of popularity across the region. Korean food tops the list of foods purchased at foreign specialty stores in China, is the most prominent emerging style of restaurant and cuisine in Singapore and is amongst the most popular cuisine for Australian consumers in 2014.

Food safety a critical concern

An unsurprising trend is the growing importance of food safety and ethical sourcing considerations. Rocked by food scandals, Chinese consumers are now fully aware of the realities with 84% saying that it was "extremely or very important to know where food comes from".

This has created new market opportunities in turn with Chinese product awareness and choice maturing. Nearly all respondents, 96%, said that they choose to buy organic food at least occasionally if not always.

Korea and Singapore are not far behind with sourcing considerations elevated at 90% and 82% of those surveyed respectively. For China and Singapore, labelling remains the principal source of identifying this information.

Beyond the supermarket aisles, which still earn the highest share of shopper’s loyalties, Asia Pacific’s evolving consumer trends are visible in the digital and social media sphere. In this area the behavioural contrasts between established and emerging markets are clear.

Australia is suffering from “foodie fatigue” with celebrity endorsements beginning to fall flat. Social media plugs are also proving a turn-off with just seven percent of respondents sharing their food digitally. China has stepped into this gap, however, as the "super sharers" of the region. Forty-six percent post their purchases to social media, relative to 29% and 25% in Korea and Singapore respectively.

Commenting on the report, David Liu, Chairman, Weber Shandwick China, said: “We are witnessing a huge rise of celebrity culture in China, and their influence on consumer choices is extensive. Food choices are no exception, and the popularity of foods or restaurants can be hugely increased by celebrity or influencer endorsement, as Chinese consumers seek to emulate their idols”.

Almost 72% of Chinese consumers are more likely to be influenced by endorsements.

The report also finds that digital spending power for food is also on the way up. Yet the markets are almost unanimously united with cost being the principal factor affecting consumer purchases. Cost was the principal consideration for 60-82% of respondents across the region.

This may prove to be good news for international products. Locally produced products do not attract the same cache on line, with an average 40% reporting that this was an influence on their purchasing decisions.

Brands, however, face an even lengthier battle for consumer affections online. With the exception of Singapore at 37%, brand names influenced purchasing decisions in just 12-16% of respondents.

Click here to download the Asia Pacific Food Forward Trends Report 2014

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