Supporting Growing Consumer Health Needs With Fortified Food And Beverages

Friday, February 18th, 2022

Consumer appetites for functional food and beverages in Asia continues to grow with more people seeking products with probiotics and other immunity-boosting qualities.

By Jackie Ng, Strategic Marketing Director, AH&N, Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa

Consumers today are adopting a more proactive approach to their health, and this has spurred the significant growth of the functional food and beverage market. While products with added protein and fibre are still in demand, consumer focus is on supporting health, especially with immune-supporting foods and probiotic beverages. 

According to Kerry’s 2021 Global Consumer Survey on Digestive & Immune Health, there is a growing appetite for functional food products that support immune health and overall wellness. In fact, 58 percent of global consumers cite immune health as their top reason for purchasing healthy lifestyle products. A 2021 Innova Trends Insider Report also reveals that more than 70 percent of consumers surveyed in Asia, including 91 percent in Indonesia, say that choosing functional products are ‘important’ or ‘very important’. This creates opportunities for manufacturers to provide food and beverage products that meet health demands.

Eating Well

In APMEA, Kerry’s proprietary research shows that immune health is the top benefit consumers seek in functional foods. Nearly 80 percent of consumers in some countries in this region say they are interested in functional foods with immune health benefits. 

Furthermore, 71 percent are already using or considering healthy lifestyle products with immune health benefits. Manufacturers have answered the call to deliver ‘better-for-you’ versions of tasty comfort foods, including adding immune health ingredients such as Wellmune®, Kerry’s proprietary yeast beta glucan.

While personalisation and healthy indulgence are influencing market growth, 90 percent of APMEA consumers say they are interested in food and drink products that are customised to meet their nutritional needs, according to FMCG Gurus Snack Trends 2021 Report. In addition, more than 60 percent perceive functional confections as healthy. This creates a market potential for treats that are also good for the body.

Nowhere is this felt more strongly than in feel-good foods like snacks. While snacks are typically regarded as indulgent, many global consumers say they’d like to see products such as snack bars fortified with health-supporting ingredients. 

According to the FMCG Gurus research, confectionery is big, with more than a quarter of global consumers eating or purchasing confectionery with functional benefits. It is not too different in Asia where fruit and vegetable juices, spoonable yoghurt, breakfast cereal/granola and sweet snacks top the foods consumers most want to find immune health benefits.

The key is to formulate foods that satisfy consumer desire for indulgence as well as health and nutrition by offering healthy goodness they want and can understand.

Drinks With Benefits

A Euromonitor report reveals that the global functional beverage market was worth US$102 billion in 2020, with a projected CAGR of 3.2 percent through 2025. Significant growth can be seen in dairy and alternative dairy beverage products, energy drinks, wellness shots as well as coffee and tea fortified with ingredients such as probiotics. 

Demand for beverages with probiotic benefits is especially high in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa where the market for functional beverages is the largest globally, with current value at US$42.8 billion, according to Euromonitor Passport 2020.

Indeed, there is a strong market potential for probiotic applications across categories, with Kerry research showing more than 60 percent of Asian consumers are either using or considering food and beverage products that provide digestive health benefits. Dairy beverages, fruit and vegetable juices and hot beverages appeal to nearly a third of Asian consumers surveyed who say they wouldn’t mind buying them again if they contained digestive health benefits.

Gaining ground is interest in custom beverages formulated with science-backed benefits. Increasingly, consumers are reading labels and researching more closely: three-quarters of global consumers who buy probiotics say science-based claims are pivotal to their decision-making. Personalisation can encompass many formats and types of products, including beverages for specific consumer groups and those with recognisable and preferred ingredients, such as BC30 probiotics.

Globally, the top functional beverage categories with digestive health benefits include refreshing options such as enhanced waters that both hydrate the body while supporting health. Kerry’s proprietary research shows that 40 percent of consumers have purchased or are interested in buying these beverages. Amid today’s busy, active lifestyles, more than half of consumers surveyed are also reaching for beverage-based meal replacements as a healthier, convenient option. And interestingly, more than a third of consumers now seek hot and ready-to-drink coffee and tea for digestive health benefits.

In a fast-evolving market where claims are increasingly important, supporting a product’s benefits by formulating with research-backed ingredients is the best way to establish consumer trust, while opening an opportunity for brands to get innovative and delight and surprise consumers with products that are indulgent and tasty, and that they feel good consuming.


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