Plant-Based Nutrition Is The 2018 Recipe For Success

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

With consumers being more health-conscious, many are looking to natural and functional ingredients in their food, such as those from plants. By Sarah Lim, senior marketing manager, SE Asia, ADM Wild Flavours & Specialty Ingredients. 

As consumers look to find balance in their hectic city lifestyles, healthy eating habits are gaining significant traction across Asia. This is most evident in Southeast Asia, with the emergence of restaurants providing healthy eating options on their menus. Retailers are giving greater space to health focused products, as consumers expect more choices to meet their food and beverages needs.

Consumers are also increasingly hungry for transparency on what they eat and drink and look for functional ingredient details on restaurant menus and product labels.

A recent Nielsen global study reveals consumers have begun to adopt a back-to-basics mind-set, focusing on healthful foods. “Consumers want to eat more healthfully, but they can’t do it alone. They need help from food manufacturers to offer products that are formulated with good-for-you ingredients,” said Andrew Mandzy, director of Strategic Health and Wellness Insights, Nielsen.

The good news for food and beverage companies is that 68 percent of consumers surveyed, ‘strongly or somewhat’ agree they are willing to pay more for foods and drinks that do not contain undesirable ingredients.

Consumers are seeking more information about the ingredients, processes and supply chains used to create the foods and beverages they consume. This is why transparency, traceability and communication are key to building trust and preference with consumers. Manufacturers must rebuild trust with consumers, help them feel more confident about the safety and purity of what they eat and drink.

This is especially true in Asia, given the food scandals that have rocked China over the past decade.

According to Forbes’ 10 Food Trends That Will Shape 2018, the huge rise in plant-based everything will continue.

Meanwhile, Fortune magazine also sees plant-based products in its top 10 trends for 2018. The market is expanding, driven by technological innovation. Plant-based burgers, nut milks and yoghurts are now being eaten by loyal meat and dairy eaters who are more conscious of their own health, animal welfare rights and the environment.

It is clear what was once a small niche market is no longer so niche.

To stay ahead of the game, food and beverage players must seize the best quality natural plant-based ingredient possibilities for food fortification.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating has grown from the global mindfulness movement, where people, especially millennials, take a more holistic approach to their health, particularly the connection between mind and body. Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Making the right food choices allows people to feel better about themselves as they consume food and beverages for nutritional purposes to enhance their well-being.

One of Hippocrates’ mantras, “Let food be thy medicine”, has never been more apt to describe consumers’ desire to be more conscious of their diet.

Self-care is another global trend, and drives consumers to find food and drinks that meet their perceived nutritional, physical and emotional needs. According to the World Health Organisation, chronic diseases will be the leading cause of mortality globally by 2020. Consumers now take preventive measures, such as eating wisely, to stay healthy and maintain a high quality life, while keeping chronic diseases at bay.

According to a Mintel APAC Metro Consumer Study in Indonesia’s five major cities—Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Semarang—‘boosting their immune system’ is the key motivation for 52 percent of urban dwellers to include functional food and drink in their diets. This is closely followed by ‘aiding digestion’ (43 percent) and ‘maintaining a healthy heart ‘(40 percent).

Functional claims led Asia Pacific food and beverage new launches at 55 percent, compared with other regions during the period September 2014 to August 2017.

Truthful Consumerism

‘Made with natural ingredients’ has evolved to become a labelling rule. In today’s digitised world, people have immediate access to information. Transparency in communication, shown through clean and clear label designs, are valued highly by these discerning buyers.

The age old saying, ‘you are what you eat’, is even more relevant to today’s sceptical consumers.

Savvy millennials actively search for natural functional ingredients to include in their personalised nutritional regime. Their needs are met by food and beverages that deliver on nutrient packed goodness for added functionality along with good taste. They also want to make sure the raw material and ingredients have been sourced ethically to align with their values.


Plant-based Nutrition

Plant-based nutrition is ‘growing’ from strength to strength. More companies are creating functional foods that include plant-derived ingredients from nature such as natural colours, flavours, juices, botanicals, bean powders and plant-based proteins.

Hong Kong based health journalist and self-proclaimed green entrepreneur, Sonalie Figueiras, says 2018 will see health and wellness as the new lifestyle status symbol for millennial Asians. Ms Figueiras says plant-based lifestyles are growing in popularity across Asia, with China’s vegan market expected to grow over 17 percent by 2020.

In Hong Kong, 22 percent of the population report having some form of plant-based diet. The number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants has more than doubled in the past couple years. In Singapore, vegan retailers and plant-based food and beverage outlets are thriving.

There are several ways plant-based functional ingredients boost the functionality of brands, and partnering with a trusted and knowledgeable partner who is at the forefront of plant-based ingredients helps ensure that you are aligning with the taste and nutritional needs of today’s consumers.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds originated in Mexico and have become one of the most popular of the revived ancient superfoods. They were revered by the ancient Aztec & Mayan people, who learned the seeds provided them with vital nourishment and fuel required to run long distances and fight battles.

Chia seeds comprise of nutrients with energy-boosting power. These mighty seeds are packed with the goodness of fibre, protein, antioxidants and omega-3, together with bone minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Asia Pacific food and beverage product launches featuring chia seeds on label designs increased by 334 percent (2017 versus 2014).

Chia seeds contribute little flavour and are suitable for beverages and baked goods formulations.



Quinoa, pronounced ‘keen-wa’, was a staple of the ancient Inca Empire. As a wheat-free alternative to starch grains, it contains high quality protein. Quinoa has all nine essential amino acids making it a complete-protein source suitable for vegans. “The International Year of the Quinoa” nominated in 2013 by the Food & Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) drew more global attention to this food.

Product launches in Asia Pacific with quinoa indicated on label increased by 192 percent in 2017 compared to 2014.

Naturally high in dietary fibre, quinoa is a slowly digested carbohydrate, making it a good low-GI option. It is also high in magnesium and iron.

Quinoa is suitable for use in beverages, baked goods and savoury foods.



Pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family and include alfalfa, lentils, chickpeas, edible beans and dried peas. They are very high in protein and fibre, and low in fat.

The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYOP). Its goal was to increase public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production, which delivers food security and nutrition. Continuing the momentum of IYOP, Global Pulse Day is a global annual event celebrated to promote pulses and demonstrate the variety of dishes that can be prepared with pulses.

According to Mintel Ingredient Insight Pulses & Legumes 2017, Asia Pacific dominated global food and drink product launches containing pulses and/or legumes across food categories, accounting for 47 percent of such product launches.

Pulses serve as a protein and fibre source, complete with essential nutrients recommended as part of a healthy diet.


Fibre Benefits

Choosing the right fibre is a critical ingredient to ensure optimal product performance, yet not all fibres survive the rigours of processing. Growing concerns about obesity and related health issues, drives continuing consumer interest in low-calorie, reduced sugar foods and beverages.

Smart manufacturers will continue to meet these changing consumer needs by developing new product formulations, whilst endeavouring to provide a similar flavour experience supported by a first-call ingredient and flavour expert with the ability to understand these food and beverage systems.

Resistant maltodextrin (RMD)

Resistant maltodextrin (RMD) or indigestible dextrin, provides added nutritional value by being both a soluble corn fibre source, as well as helping to support a reduced calories claim. Each gram of the fibre portion adds only 1.4 calories, so it can functionally replace labelled sugars and achieve a reduction in calories across beverages and baked goods.

To close the fibre gap in our diet, food formulations can be further supplemented by RMD to meet the recommended fibre intake of 25 g/day for adult women and 38 g/day for adult men.

RMD is highly tolerated. It helps maintain intestinal regularity, without the concern of gastric discomfort, because its use as energy by the body’s gut microflora occurs very slowly compared to other fibres on the market. Backed by clinical studies, RMD also helps reduce post-meal peaks and overall response in blood glucose.

RMD is a well-known functional ingredient in Japan. Numerous FOSHU (Food for Specified Health Uses) beverage launches in Japan containing RMD have claims associated with attenuation of blood glucose and triglycerides in beverages, while promoting healthy digestion

FOSHU refers to food containing ingredients with functions for health and are officially approved to claim physiological effects on the human body.

Plant Based Nutrition Is Your 2018 Recipe For Success

Support consumers’ desires for mindful eating and drinking experiences.

Embrace plant-based nutrition with ancient superfoods and RMD to meet consumer demand for closer to nature foods that meet their ever-evolving health and nutrition needs. Align your sourcing and communications with their quest for truth, transparency and feeling secure about what they eat and drink.