Deepak Gunvante, expert consultant for the Healthy Marketing Team and CEO of DG Associates, was speaking at the recent HI South East Asia trade show in Jakarta, where he elaborated on how key regional trends in the functional food and supplement industries had influenced product development.
He told NutraIngredients-Asia: "There has been a boom in start-ups in South East Asia, because region has reached a golden age where opportunities abound, whether in e-commerce, agriculture or food technology.
"Globally and in the region, large MNCs are losing a fair portion of their market share to local brands from SMEs. This phenomenon has ensured funding availability for promising start-ups, and their success stories are another reason why many others want to capitalise on the opportunity."
There is a clear trend of more consumers seeking health and wellness, and their main areas of concern are healthier alternatives, organically sourced products with 'natural' ingredients, and clean-label products (i.e., free from additives, artificial flavours and colouring and processed ingredients).
Gunvante said, "These trends are driving companies to improve their product compositions by making them healthier, through various routes such as using natural ingredients, reducing fat, sugar and / or salt in their existing products, identifying new technologies, and making formulas without artificial flavours or food additives.
"Furthermore, product developers are designing and developing tailored products targeting different consumers who face potential health risks."
As a result, several categories of functional foods and supplements have become increasingly popular among consumers.
One such category is sports and active nutrition, which energy-boosting products. Matcha, a powdered green tea often enriched with caffeine and antioxidants, and yerba mate, derived from highly caffeinated tea leaves, are two of the most popular active nutrition product types.
With increasing emphasis on natural nutrition, products made from algae, seaweed and spirulina have flooded the market in various forms, including powders and pills.
Interest in sustainable nutrition has also grown, leading to innovations in plant- and insect-based protein sources.
While the aforementioned categories tend to cater more to the general market, targeted nutrition aims to meet specific needs.
Probiotic products, for instance, are increasingly being used by consumers for more than just gut health, with a growing number of products in the region making claims around mental health, heart health, and athletic performance.
Gunvante said: "A key area for research and innovation is the gut microbiome, which has exploded in the last decade; there is much to be understood and applied in this area."
Additionally, technology's role in nutrition has grown significantly, with apps and wearable devices helping users to plan their diets and physical activity.
Gunvante predicted that South East Asia's health food and supplement industry was set for healthy growth over the next three to five years, with more local brands meeting consumer needs.
"The 'natural' and 'organic' trends will accelerate, particularly in the area of probiotics, and sustainability will be high on the food sector's agenda, through packaging and across the supply chain.
"E-commerce and technology will continue to transform the way businesses operate in the region. In the past, food technology remained largely stagnant on the first, customer-facing layer.
"However, we can expect much innovation in the following two tiers — food sciences and food sourcing. This is a fertile area for start-ups, and we will see lot of contributions from them."
Deepak Gunvante is one of the judges at the inaugural NutraIngredients-Asia Awards, which will take place on September 10 this year, the evening before Vitafoods Asia is set to kick off. Entries for the awards are now open — find out more at our website.