A Peek Into Current APAC F&B Trends

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Mathias Kuepper, managing director at Koelnmesse Private Limited, organiser of Thaifex-World of Food Asia (Thaifex), gives an insight to how the Asia Pacific food and beverage industry will change in the coming years, ahead of the event. By Michelle Cheong

Give an overview of the Asia Pacific (APAC) food and beverage industry at present.


The APAC region's food and beverage industry has been thriving, even amidst global economic slowdown. In 2016, the industry achieved an estimated turnover of US$3.23 trillion, and was backed by a consistent year-on-year growth rate of 11 percent, presenting a wealth of opportunities for the region.

Against this backdrop, several countries in particular have contributed to the region’s remarkable performance especially in recent years, namely Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The strategic locations of these countries are also one of the reasons why Thaifex is held in Thailand—to provide visitors with unparalleled access to these emerging markets in Indochina.


What are the drivers for this growth?


One of the key drivers would have to be the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, which aims to amalgamate the region’s multiple economies by developing a world-class infrastructure that facilitates the flow of goods and capital across borders.

This has definitely helped in terms of bolstering economic development for these emerging markets, and with the region's hub for connectivity, companies all across Asia Pacific will stand to benefit from regional and global integration opportunities.


What are some trends in products that are seen here in APAC today?


There are several, but three of the more prominent trends would be Eating Clean, Eating Green, and growing interest in the Consumption of Seeds.

The first is about the increasing demand in the region for clean and clear labels, or total transparency in the production of food; Asian consumers are becoming more interested in understanding the entire supply chain, from the origins of their food to the manufacturing processes involved.

The second is about consumers finding alternative and more innovative ways to incorporate the health benefits of plants into their daily diets. This could either be through vegan offerings like plant-based meat alternatives or through the use of healthy herbs and spices like turmeric, rosemary and sage.

The last trend is about the rising application of seeds in meals, especially chia and quinoa seeds, which have gained popularity in recent years because of their health benefits and sustainable farming methods.


Which product categories have grown the fastest, and why?


The demand for health and organic foods has grown substantially in the last five years, as consumers have become more discerning about what they eat and also more willing to pay for better quality foods. With food makers across the region adapting to meet the changing demands, the popularity of organic food has become more extensive than ever before.

Halal food is also drawing some traction, with at least 12 percent of Asian F&B launches in 2014 and 2015 being Halal-certified. With 400 million Muslims living in Southeast Asia alone, this provides a significant market and wealth of opportunities for regional businesses to leverage.


Which markets or product categories are poised for high growth rates in the next five years? Why?


The application of technology to the production of food will likely see substantial growth in the next five years. With constantly changing demands across the region and the increasing concern about sustainable practices, innovations in the F&B industry will definitely be featured more moving forward.

For example, Thaifex will be introducing a dedicated "Innovation Zone" this year as a mark of the trade show's commitment to developments in the industry. The newly-minted zone will showcase the wide range of innovative food products and product designs from countries all around the region.


What are some possible drivers for future innovations?


The ASEAN region is one of the largest markets in the world, boasting a nine percent share of the total world population, and a steady population growth rate of 1.12 percent per year.

The statistics may not seem significant but it does mean that the demand for food in Southeast Asia is not just growing, but the patterns of consumption are also changing drastically, and conventional methods of food production will not be able to meet these evolving demands. This is why food innovations are so important, because they ensure that even as the population grows, the region will still be able to meet the challenges of a complex and rapidly changing food market.


What can manufacturers do to take advantage of this growth?


APAC’s F&B industry has had a long history of innovation, given the constant pressures to stay up-to-date with rapidly evolving trends while remaining cost-effective, but manufacturers should now plan for Industry 4.0 (which refers to the increasing digital connectivity between the customer, product, process and factory).

By investing in research and development, companies can leverage emerging technologies that will help them remain competitive in such a dynamic industry.