She dispensed this advice during a conference session on the changing food focus of APAC consumers at Vitafoods Asia, where she also emphasised the importance of promoting concepts over merely selling products.
This was attributed in part to more consumers prioritising traceability and responsible nutrition when shopping for food items, especially in countries like Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and China.
They prefer to buy from companies that have transparent value chains and whose products are made with ethical, eco-friendly processes.
The ease at which people can use any device to connect to the Internet and with one another, simply termed the Internet of Things, is partially responsible for the shift in consumer focus when it comes to food and nutrition.
It places pressure on ingredient providers to give customers an easily accessible and traceable story with regards to their products, in order to convince them they are worth buying.
Back to basics
Another factor is the increasingly common tendency of many consumers to go ‘back to basics’, which has given rise to trends like the Paleo diet, and the use of traditional Chinese and Indian medicine (TCM and Ayurveda).
D’Costa revealed that within APAC, consumers have been spending up to 15% more on products with traditional or cultural labels, such as TCM or Ayurveda claims.
The history behind such products is of great interest to many buyers, who are eschewing synthetic supplements for those advertised with buzzwords like ‘100% natural’, ‘farm-fresh’, ‘free-form’, ‘pure’ or ‘real’.
APAC consumers are also three times more likely to pay a premium for food and supplements that are sold as ‘organic’, and in developed countries, 30% to 40% of consumers tend to pay close attention to ingredient compositions on product labels.
The ultimate status symbol?
D’Costa also spoke about how food has become the ultimate status symbol as “indulgence has taken on a major role in mental well-being globally”, with social media serving as a main driver in the growth of this trend.
Foster & Sullivan had found that approximately 52% of viral headlines and topics shared on social media in APAC were about food.
In China, 62% of consumers had shared their food experiences on social media in the past month. The figures for Singapore and South Korea were 40% and 42% respectively.
Rising disposable incomes in APAC have also led to different forms of personalised nutrition being made available to consumers.
In Singapore, for instance, USANA Health Sciences launched its first personalised protein shake under its MySmart range, allowing customers to personalise their shakes with the option of a base (soy or whey protein), flavour optimiser (a variety of fruits) and booster (fibre options).
Get in touch with consumer emotions
D’Costa thus advised food and supplement business owners to identify consumer triggers and “respect the local story” so they know where their brands fit into consumers’ daily lives.
She added that more pharmaceutical manufacturers would enter the APAC food and beverage market, and as such, industry players should take note of key nutrition areas to drive collaborations with non-traditional supplement manufacturers.
She concluded by saying that in developing countries in the region, most consumers “want a story of affluence attached to a premium product”, so manufacturers should “tailor the story to match this need”.