The world as we know has changed—entirely, undoubtedly, and irrevocably.
Every industry creates and breaks new consumer trends now and then, and the food and beverage industry is no exception. Many of the current trends we are witnessing are due to COVID-19. Some of them are consumer preferences, while others are simply social initiatives.
The Southeast Asian market is known for its love for flavorsome food and irresistible beverages. After the pandemic, the demand for online shopping in the region accelerated. Many foods and beverage SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) started supplying their unique experiences via an eCommerce store.
However, if you plan to be a part of this industry, keep an eye on the region's latest food and beverage trends. In this guide, we have put together some top trends of the food and drink industry that are currently making waves in Southeast Asia.
Up & Coming Food & Beverage Trends In Southeast Asia
Plant-based meats and milk, healthy eating, sustainable foods… How will we eat this year?
It's not just the food itself anymore.
From eating the right mix of nutrients to maintaining mental and physical health and boosting immunity, minimizing food wastage and online home kitchens, cooking robots, and a new range of dairy options, food trends cover everything.
Did you know that one-third of all food produced goes to waste, and the carbon footprint of food waste is more than that of the airline industry?
As more and more consumers demand sustainable food options, the area of upcycling is gaining popularity among brands and chefs, boosting their sustainability credentials. Various companies started repurposing their food wastages (ugly produce). They introduced a new and growing category of food products made from upcycled plant parts or would-be wasted ingredients.
The trend is gaining popularity in Asia-Pacific, thanks to LILO, a New Zealand brand selling desserts from their discarded fruits. Similar steps were taken by an international fruit giant Dole in the Philippines and Singapore; Japan's Keishindo also shared its contribution and started making shrimp crackers from wasted shrimp heads.
Organic Snacks for Kids
Recently, no trend has been more viral than health and wellness, thanks to the COVID-19; we have never seen such a rise in demand for healthier food options all over the world before the pandemic. The same is the case for food-preneurs targeting children.
Australia's largest organic snacks producer, Whole Kids, started producing qualitative, more nutritious, and sustainably-sourced plant-based snacks for children in South Korea. This trend sounds novice but can create a niche in a market full of unhealthy snacks.
You've heard of oat milk, almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, and now, potato milk.
This healthy, non-dairy alternative to traditional cow's milk is getting increasingly popular across the globe, including Southeast Asia; this humble potato could be the next big thing in plant milk.
This vegan "milk" is made from tubers and involves a lot more than just squeezing potatoes to get the desired consistency. You can use potato milk on cereal, drink it as a beverage, and even make coffee out of it.
The question that comes to mind is: why? Using potatoes to make plant milk is more environmentally friendly, as potatoes require much less water and are the easiest vegetables to grow.
A virtual restaurant also called a "cloud kitchen" or "ghost restaurant," is a business model increasing in popularity lately after the pandemic. Even though this concept sounds like an online open-world video game, it is a lot more than that.
These are also gaining momentum in Southeast Asia as companies like Grain from Singapore and Dahmakan in Malaysia have already adopted this business model.
Given the massive demand for real estate in the ASEAN region, commercial restaurants in urban areas are planning to go virtual; this growth will most likely be reflected across significant markets like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where demand is the highest.
Cloud kitchens are equivalent to Amazon retailers of the food industry in that they sell their food online only. This business model eliminates the need for customer seating, lighting, air conditioning, rent payments, extra staffing, and other overhead bills, leading to better economies of scale while prioritizing consumer preferences.
These kitchens take online orders from food delivery apps or websites and do not own or operate spaces with an eating area for customers or even an order-taking counter; many don't even own laptops.
Food Transparency & Sustainability
The pandemic has not only left us grounded, but ironically, the massive disruption in supply chains has also led us to want to know more about the food – how it's made, where it is coming from, and whether it's additive-free or organic.
Along with cutting back on food waste and reducing packaging, consumers will also be looking for sustainable ways to cook, shop, and eat this year.
And, it's not enough to say the food operation is sustainable. There should be a pressing need for companies to collaborate with others and with consumers, building trust in their claims of zero or negative impact.
It is vital to ensure public faith in the transparency of all the actions taken by the brand – right from collecting the vegetables to cooking and packaging; it's also essential to ensure universal acceptance of certifications.
For the sake of scrutiny, consumers now require clear, quick, tangible, and trusted information along with a product life story.
In the last two years, we have learned that we love having food delivered to us. Although restaurants have opened across the globe, the convenience of seamless food and snacks delivered right at our doorstep has become a part of our culture.
This has also led to a rise in the popularity of ghost kitchens, where shoppers conveniently order a consolidated food package from different offerings using a single app.
Food delivery service is not new, but thanks to apps and smartphones for tremendous penetration of the service, this home service is also applied to other sectors.
Globally speaking, the online food delivery market is worth US$35 billion annually. By 2030, it is expected to reach US$365 billion. In Southeast Asia, the food delivery market can grow by US$8 billion by 2025.
The other significant benefit that opens more opportunities for food delivery services is the convenience of ready-to-eat homemade food, especially for those with no time to shop, prepare or cook every day. Here, credit goes to those who worked from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of the COVID-19, consumers prioritize foods and drinks that help boost their immune systems. When it comes to the immune system, fruits like oranges, papaya, and lemons and veggies like garlic, ginger, red bell peppers, broccoli, green tea, sunflower seeds, turmeric, and shellfish, are known to be excellent choices.
Keeping the immunity in mind, savvy chefs and restaurateurs are looking for dishes around these ingredients and promoting immunity-boosting menus. This trend will continue to be with us for years to come as the pandemic shows little sign of abating anytime soon.
There's an opportunity for brands to provide healthier options and develop mood-food formulations; developing and integrating food packaging that complements mindful eating for mental, physical, and social well-being can also be good practice for emerging food ventures.
Consumers are also looking for foods and beverages options fortified with probiotics and prebiotics, zinc, vitamins C & D, and adaptogens (herbs and plant-based ingredients) for better gut health.
Nearly 4 billion people worldwide live on a plant-based diet only, and the plant-based meat market will be worth $85 billion by 2030. Here again, thanks to the pandemic for the excessive growth of meat and dairy substitute products.
Foods such as dairy, meat, and seafood are replaced by plant proteins such as pea, soy, etc. You won't be able to distinguish between plant-based nuggets, snacks, dips, sauces, cheese, spreads, patties, dairy, and their meat counterparts.
Plant-based foods like tofu, tempeh, and mock meats, are not new in Southeast Asia. These ingredients are commonly used in street foods and can be bought at hawker centers here. However, in the last 2-3 years, the demand and consumption of plant-based foods have tremendously increased due to flexitarians (people who want less meat and more vegetarian options).
Another important reason for the shift is the greater awareness of the impact of meat consumption on our health and environment; strangely, beef and lamb are the largest sources of greenhouse gasses.
In this post-pandemic world, Southeast Asia has diverted the focus towards personal hygiene, taking their general health much more seriously like never before – beginning with the food they eat.
The increased consumer awareness of health-first, nutrition, and food safety has put nutrition at the forefront, accelerating the holistic approach to wellness.
Following a "better-for-you" trend in food consumption, the ASEAN is witnessing the emergence of many new products and brands. Food and beverage trends revolve around sustainability, transparency, nutrition, texture, taste, mouthfeel, meat substitutes, plan-based options, and flavor fusions.