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With rising concerns of obesity correlated with sugar intake, consumers are substituting from soft drinks high in sugar to those with zero sugar and healthier ingredients. Furthermore, governments within the region have taken active measures to curb sugar intake, promoting healthy lifestyles amongst consumers.
In 2017, volume sales of soft drinks in Southeast Asia, which includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore, observed a slowdown due to poor consumer sentiment and rising health consciousness. Moreover, sugar tax was implemented in the Philippines and Thailand, and this is expected to impact soft drinks with high sugar content, such as carbonates. This is especially so in the Philippines, where sweetened beverages are seen as refreshment essentials.
Within carbonates, performance across the region remains stagnant. Although manufacturers launched reduced or zero sugar variants, such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, it remains difficult for sales to grow as consumers shift towards healthier categories such as bottled water.
Between 2018 and 2022, carbonates players are expected to slow down further, especially with anti-sugar legislation implemented by the government. The only exception is Vietnam, which is expected to observe a 7% volume CAGR over the forecast period, due to rising income and widening product variety.
In response, beverage manufacturers across various categories are expected to rejuvenate their image towards healthy living, reformulating their products by launching reduced or zero sugar as well as sugar-free alternatives, using sweeteners such as stevia. For example, Fraser & Neave launched a new variant of its popular sports drinks, 100 Plus Zero Sugar in Singapore. This positions the beverage as one that appeals to health conscious consumers while providing growth opportunities for manufacturers. Moreover, beverages are increasingly infused with fruit flavours and value-added ingredients such as oats, dairy products, and superfoods due to their strong health positioning. Beverages with beauty-enhancement and anti-ageing claims are also expected to rise, appealing to the growing ageing population in developed markets.
As consumers become more health conscious, manufacturers are expected to be more transparent in their packaging labelling, highlighting the nutritional content and health benefits as consumers become more health conscious. While consumers do not mind paying slightly more for healthier beverages, affordability is expected to remain a key concern. Low-income consumers in the Philippines and Indonesia are set to prioritise affordability over healthier elements.
With more beverage launches expected to incorporate healthy elements, manufacturers are expected to face various challenges. By infusing healthier ingredients, the cost of production is expected to increase, impacting consumers, especially those from developing countries. As such, it remains critical for carbonates manufacturers to maintain a balance between affordability and infusing healthy ingredients. Furthermore, manufacturers must seek to retain the taste of products with such product reformulations, in order to maintain brand loyalty amongst consumers. At the same time, greater education by manufacturers and the government is also vital to shaping the regional attitudes and willingness of consumers to try healthier alternatives, such as those with reduced sugar and natural sweeteners. This will enable manufacturers to strengthen their competitiveness, contributing towards the performance of soft drinks in Southeast Asia.