I recently spoke at Vitafoods Asia 2014 where the latest food and beverage product development trends were discussed among industry experts. Topics covered included Asia Pacific’s Muslim community, safety standards and the labelling of functional foods, plus a focus on various ingredients such as monkfruit, an emerging sweetener in Asia Pacific. The world’s ageing population and growing concern over obesity were also in the spotlight during the event.
I gave two presentations titled Consumer Trends in Weight Management in Asia Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for the Industry and Unique Characteristics of Ageing Consumers and Opportunities for the Food and Beverages Market, which highlighted the key trends and some of the recent product developments within the industry. An overview of these presentations is given below.
Consumer trends in weight management in Asia Pacific
According to Euromonitor International’s statistics, global retail value sales of weight management products reached US$163.0 billion in 2013. In addition to rising obesity, social influence remains a key factor driving demand for weight management products in Asia Pacific. Image-conscious people in the region tend to consider themselves fatter than they actually are, which is driving demand for weight-management-oriented food and beverages.
The presentation highlights that consumers prefer to eat the same food types even when trying to lose weight, but they look for healthier alternatives of these same foods. Packaged food and beverages with reduced “unhelpful” substances, such as fat and sugar, have performed well, in line with the trend towards weight management. Products that add more functional ingredients in order to boost weight loss faster or limit absorption of fat in the body also feature strongly in the weight management category.
In Asia Pacific, emerging countries have great potential to grow. Comparing two extreme cases of weight management market development, India has yet to develop this category and is highly concentrated on dairy products, while Japan has various products positioned for weight management across packaged food and beverages. Communication and education about the benefits of packaged food and beverages positioned for weight management will be necessary to push the development of these products in emerging countries like India in the long term.
Opportunities in the food and beverages market to target the ageing
It is estimated that the gap between life expectancy (the number of years which the average person lives) and healthy life expectancy (the number of years which the average person lives without ill health) is at least seven years globally. Asia Pacific, in particular, has an 8-year gap between these two measures and the industry continues to focus on offering products which can actively close this gap and leverage on the trend towards “active ageing”. Products with enriched nutrition, extra health benefits and in a format which is easy to consume are expected to see strong opportunities for growth when it comes to attracting the rising ageing population in Asia Pacific.
The focus of this presentation was not only on Asia Pacific’s ageing population but also on young people concerned about ageing and the need to cater to their concerns to close the gap between their healthy life expectancy and actual life expectancy. Today’s consumers are willing to pay for products to reduce the signs of ageing and address health concerns. The presentation highlighted two specific ingredients which stand out in the Asia Pacific market: antioxidants; and collagen. The claimed health benefits of these ingredients are particularly well known in the region, and continue to attract high interest amongst those concerned about active ageing. Packaged food and beverages containing high levels of antioxidants continue to see an increase in retail value sales. Ready-to-drink green tea in Asia Pacific saw value sales reach US$11.0 billion in 2013, which translates into 7% year-on-year growth between 2008 and 2013, based on Euromonitor International’s statistics. When it comes to products with collagen, Asia Pacific is where consumers are willing to try the latest products and innovations.
Lastly, the key target segments expected to boost sales of active ageing products in Asia Pacific are defined as ‘the healthy, wealthy and ready to spend’. Developed countries including Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong have higher disposable incomes to spend on active ageing food and beverages, plus a relatively higher healthy life expectancy to enjoy such products.