Food flavours go local in Asia Pacific and beyond

No FMCG industry can ignore the importance of Asia Pacific’s emerging economies and the flavours market is no exception. In both China and India, food and beverage flavours are expected to see a CAGR of 5% between 2009 and 2014. However, as these economies blossom and national confidence grows, consumers that formerly looked West are now embracing influences closer to home. Flavour suppliers and manufacturers should develop innovative products to suit tastes in regions where local flavours are now taking precedence.

Looking East, not West

Though emerging world consumers still have an interest in Western-style flavours, they are increasingly opting for authentic local and regional alternatives. During recent trade interviews in China, packaged food players have highlighted the importance of local flavours in product development. For the Chinese, preferences extend to rich compounds such as ‘sweet and savoury’ and ‘savoury and sour,’ so companies are experimenting with local flavour combinations. Seafood blends are popular for soy sauces. One pastries company has also confirmed plans to incorporate mochi powder, a Japanese specialty, into its products. In India, Godrej-Hershey’s caters to local tastes with coconut and rose flavoured sweets. However, many manufacturers have also adapted to regional variation in tastes. Two major dairy-flavoured milk drinks players, Andhra Dairy and Gujarat Cooperative, produce badam (almond) milk for the market in North India and kesar (saffron) and elachi (cardamom) milks for East India.

Convenience food is the way forward

The packaged food market in Asia Pacific will grow by 3% between 2010 and 2015 as consumers continue to turn to convenience foods that suit hectic schedules. Given that in 2009 this sector accounted for approximately 33% of the flavours market, opportunities for growth look promising. Companies should develop innovative local flavours for dynamic growth categories in this region. In China, there will be opportunities in baby food, chilled and frozen foods and soups, whilst in India, there is potential in snack bars, soups, ready meals and noodles.

Americans also ‘keep it local’

The shift towards local flavours is not limited to Asia Pacific. It is also gaining ground in the USA. Here, the well-established ‘local foods’ culture has recently been amplified by the ‘Buy American’ ethic which encourages consumers to stick to home-grown goods. Astute flavour players have already responded. Wild Flavors has created an heirloom tomato range based on research across twenty tomato varieties produced by local farmers. It has also delved into regional cuisine, creating flavours around southern barbecue, New Orleans gumbo and Chicago-style pizza. These and other local flavours could suit noodles, frozen processed foods and snack bars, all of which are expected to grow by nearly 2% between 2010 and 2015.

Limited editions are a clever way to test new flavours without assuming great risk. Companies should experiment with a range of locally-based flavours and products to suit these varied but growing markets.