What will the new decade hold for the South East Asian food and beverage industry? The last few years have been very promising as production and manufacturing bases – whether small or large have adapted to new technologies and a continuing need for healthy nutritious food with sustainability in mind. This progress has been seen across all sectors in most countries due to the fact that governments have added support to new innovations. But will we see the same positive changes, increased profits and business enhancement in the twenty twenties?
One of the major enhancements to food production in recent years has been the focus on nutrition. Advanced medical knowledge and an informed consumer base has meant businesses in the food industry have had to adapt product ingredients and packaging to meet the needs of a health-conscious market. Normally this would be a big challenge for the small businessman, but new governmental policies, regulations and financial support have aided transitions.
Perhaps the most important targets for modern food and beverage organisations has been fat, salt and sugar reduction. A key player in this area is Malaysian beverage giant F&N who have reformulated 70% of their products in order to reduce sugar levels. Even though this move was greatly motivated by the new sugar tax in 2019, these reformulations have also saved consumers from inevitable price hikes. At the other end of the scale, companies are also looking to add nutritional value. For instance, Nestle Malaysia Group continues to actively add essential nutrients such as protein, vitamin B and D and calcium to their Milo brand.
High quality alternatives to meat
According to Global Food Industries General Manager Jack Plewa, there are 4 factors which will continue to determine the future of food production in Asia in the next decade. They are: Health concerns, sustainability and environment, taste, and animal welfare. Cost, of course, always has been and always will be a major determining factor.
One sub-industry which appears to provide all of the above factors is the plant-based industry. In other words, by replacing meat with a plant product, a consumer manages to satisfy the need for exceptional taste at the same time as taking into account health concerns, environment issues and of course animal welfare.
Another innovation is cell-based meat. This is where meat is grown and taken from cells instead of a whole animal. Scientist are aware that they can reproduce the taste and quality expected from meat-eaters. But also, as well as this concept fundamentally helping animal welfare, the businessman needs fewer resources in production and it has less impact on the environment.
Cell-based products are now firmly established in South East Asia. The first product on the market in 2013 was beef burgers. As we move forward there are likely to be chicken, beef, pork and even seafood products. This sector is attracting financial investment which in turn will allow private organisations to take on new more efficient technologies.
The consumer base for the new decade is far more educated about what foods will contribute to wellness and what ingredients to look for on packaging. There is also a definite trend for consumers to look at food products as a healthy resource. So, if promises made on packaging is not true it is likely to have a detrimental effect on the brand and future profits for the organisation. It would seem consumers in Asia want quality foods and are willing to pay for it. However, food production is currently focused on low-cost, high speed manufacturing – this approach is not good for the new demand for high quality healthy foods. It is felt these production systems will need to be adaptable in the twenty twenties.
Surveys are showing that as well as healthy ingredients, consumers want to know where ingredients have come from and that they are still fresh. Therefore, it is expected that products such as Tetrapak will become more and more popular as a form of packaging to enhance shelf-life and aid transport. It also acts as an effective factor for sustainability.
East meets west
Due to digital advances, and availability of foodstuffs via the internet, food available to consumers in the next decade will be much more multicultural as the east converges with the west. As countries in the west have seen a greater percentage of eastern food in their shops – the opposite will happen to shopping outlets in the east.
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