Food safety, sustainability and local tastes are three
consumer trends defining Asia’s food category in 2019 – but safety has to be
the starting point, according to a leading industry observer.
“If you don’t have safety, it is going to backlash on every other trend that we talk about, be it health or sustainability,” Stephane Alpern, managing partner of Kantar Consulting for Southeast Asia, told the recent Food Industry Asia (FIA) Food for Future Summit in Singapore.
“We need to see safety as an opportunity,” he stressed. “It is a growth opportunity for everyone.”
One unexpected way this trend is surfacing is via imports of
halal food to Japan, which has only around 100,000 Muslim inhabitants. But
Alpern observed that cleanliness is a crucial part of Japanese culture and
“halal certification brings trust and confidence”.
At the same time, Kantar’s Global Monitor survey has shown that Asian consumers are demonstrating pride in their respective countries by buying local.
“People are buying local food because they are proud of their local produces,” said Alpern. For instance, 72% of Indian consumers show pride in their country by buying locally made products (a sentiment that has powered the growth of brands like Patanjali). In Vietnam, this figure is 62%; in Thailand, the figure is 57%.
Consciously choosing local is also becoming a way for consumers to reconnect with traditions – and hyper-local cuisine is on the rise. This trend can be seen in packaged products such as Malaysia-based instant noodle brand MyKuali’s signature Penang-style white curry noodles, which is based on a home recipe by the founder’s mother.
But Asian consumers are not ignoring the wider world. “People across the region are extremely interested in new flavours,” Alpern reported. What they want, however, is not necessarily the genuine article but rather “more of their local tradition in that globalised food”.
There is an openness to trying new things that extends beyond food, he added. “In the same vein, when we are talking about experiences, people just generally are eager to try new experiences”.
“This is true across everything, across retail, across beauty categories. The implications are quite deep.”