15 April 2020
Trends for the APAC food and beverage industry 2020
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In this article we want to take a look at the new and innovative trends which are likely to shape the APAC food and beverage industry in 2020. From growing use of e-commerce in Vietnam, a profound use of food supplements in countries such as China and Thailand; and continuing east-west convergence in processes and consumption, there is hope this is going to be an exciting year.

The spectre of covid-19

However, there is one factor which continues to cast a dark shadow over the globe as we head further into the year.  Covid-19 continues to take innocent lives and disrupt family life, while threatening not only industry and commerce but also the very fabric of our everyday cultures.

But not all businesses and industries have been hit hard. The food and beverage industry offers essential products and so therefore the demand has not reduced. What has changed is how businesses continue food processes (when supply, employees and access to factory machinery may be limited) and get the foods customers need to the retail or market place. The other consideration is how shoppers and customers access the products.

A boom in APAC online shopping

As a huge percentage of the globe’s population is restricted from browsing the high street for its needs, the internet, online shopping and e-commerce is seeing a new boom time.  This trend is also complimenting a progressive trend which came to Thailand some time ago.

Across the industry in South East Asia there has been a drive to ensure food and beverage products are healthy and consumers are aware of ingredients and freshness of a product. This has led to many governments introducing new policies and regulations to ensure customers have access to nutritional food and businesses follow acceptable procedures. On top of that there has been a great boom and interest in food supplements. The traditional method of obtaining food supplements is online through e-commerce. Thailand has captured the market here. Neighbouring countries such as Laos and Myanmar have followed Thailand’s lead especially in overall health and skincare.

Healthy foods a priority

The APAC beverage sector is also tightening regulations around healthy products.  Business owners are recognizing that the consumer base is much more educated in healthy options and that they take nutritional ingredients into consideration. APAC consumers have become more sensitive to advertising and marketing. When APAC food products do not deliver on healthy promises, customers are voting with their feet. It is also becoming apparent that new food procedures are needed to produce the quality healthy foods and as consumers are not willing to spend more money to cover this, it means businesses will need to be very canny with future production and budgets.

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For the past year there has been a trend in APAC countries and within the food and beverage industries to focus on those traditional food ingredients often used in excess – such as sugar, salt and fat. Allowing consumers to make informed choices through effective labelling is bolstered by the fact that many countries have introduced policies and regulations to support healthy eating. For instance, the Malaysian beverage giant F&N have stated that they will be reformulating 70% of their products to reduce sugar levels. APAC businesses like any other in the world are not charities and these actions are largely driven either by demand, or taxes set by governments on unhealthy ingredients.

Packaging and sustainability

Hand in hand with the demand for quality nutritional and fresh food is the need to ensure that food and beverage packaging is environmentally friendly. As well as there being a clear drive to inform customers through labelling about ingredients, place of origin and use-by dates, there is also a marked change in the packaging itself. For instance, the use of products such as Tetra Pak.

While businesses look to ensuring there is an element of recyclability in packaging this is complimented by the appearance of partnerships to collect bottles for recycling. Two excellent examples of recycling projects are 1) in Australia all plastic bottles under 600 ml will be made from recycled plastic by the end of 2020 and 2) in Japan, its new popular green tea product made from 100% recycled PET resin through bottle-to-bottle recycling.

Plant-based and cell-based products

One up and coming trend, which started out life as a niche way to obtain protein, is the development and consumption of plant-based and cell-based products. Both are a great way and relatively cheap way to access one’s daily protein intake. As well as that, business owners are sure they can produce products which meet the taste needs of the meat-eater. The need for sustainability and effective labelling is a factor on the agenda as these products become more mainstream.

As the east masters more and more innovations from the west, experts forecast that 2020 will see a particular spike in the progress of east-west convergence. Current trends tend to show that food and beverage trends move from the US and Europe to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and then to China and South East Asia. It is expected that as Europe and the US see higher rates of Asian food consumption, so Asia will take on western standards and food consumption.

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