Four nutrition and health trends shaping functional food and drink innovation in South East Asia

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

There is rising demand for functional foods in South East Asia, driven by innovation in Japan and China. ©iStock
There is rising demand for functional foods in South East Asia, driven by innovation in Japan and China. ©iStock
Functional food innovation in developed Asian economies is increasingly influencing consumers in South East Asia’s emerging nations, with protein products, superfoods, herbal extract powders and fortified breakfast snacks making their presence felt on the market.

Much of this is being driven by increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of functional foods and interventions from governments to promote better nutritional practices.

According to a Mintel presentation at Fi Asia in Jakarta, there are four noticeable health and nutrition trends driving the market in South East Asia.

The first is that consumers are actively looking for products with a purpose​.

“We see a lot of evidence that consumers increasingly want products that are functional, nutritious and natural,”​ said Mintel’s Michelle Teodoro.

She cited the popularity of herbal powders “to perk up water”​ in Thailand, heavily fortified breakfast foods to tackle nutrient deficiencies in Indonesia and growing awareness of superfood ingredients as classic examples.

However, with regard to the latter, she added: “There is still greater potential to link superfoods to health benefits, especially through better on-pack marketing.”

Then there is the growing demand for protein​, especially plant proteins and non-meat options, which Mintel is forecasting to flourish in the region amid concerns about the health implications of soaring meat intake.

“For protein we are seeing a real craze and high-protein products are far more than just a fad now,”​ said Teodoro.

The third key trend identified was government interventions​, especially on sugar. The Singapore government has declared a ‘war on diabetes’, with interventionist policies are being examined in other markets too.

“Governments and retail organistions are constantly steering new regulations, campaigns and programmes to combat diabetes and promote better health,” ​she said.

Finally, she said functional foods companies across the spectrum could ill-afford to ignore the power of social influences​, especially in emerging South East Asia markets.

“Celebrity endorsements of particular diets or functional products are becoming more common. We can foresee that this influence will drive the consumer interest in this area and also help manufacturers innovate.”

She also added that Japan and China were continuing to influence trends in South East Asia, pointing to extensive innovation in Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU) products in Japan, especially in the tea space, which she added had the potential to appeal to wider markets.

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