Focus on convenience, local ingredients and sustainability driving F&B growth in 2022

Companies will launch foods that are healthy, easy to prepare and convenient to eat this year. Courtesy of WGSN

Support for holistic health and wellness continues to be at the forefront of trends in the food and beverage (F&B) industry, with the COVID-19 pandemic remaining a key driver. Consumers today have gone through this period of mental and physical stress, resulting in a hyperfocus on self-care through nutrition.

They are aware of the link between the foods they eat and their health, and want to be more proactive in taking care of themselves and their loved ones. It is important to make more conscious choices while making consumption an enjoyable experience. They want to understand what they eat and drink, and what effects it has on their overall well-being.

Asia Food Journal Ranking

These changing lifestyle demands and emphasis on intentional indulgence need to be considered by manufacturers and F&B companies. It pays to take a consumer-centric approach when thinking about new offerings, and businesses need to adapt quickly to changing consumer needs. Customers will respond to products that are relevant and resonate with their priorities.

Convenient and healthy food

According to the Innova Market Insights survey, 76% of global consumers aged 26-55 believe that healthy aging starts with the foods you eat. In particular, Asia has a growing aging population, so wellness through diet is a priority. Along with this increased focus on health comes a growing interest in gut health and its connection to the body’s immune function. Consequently, nutrient-dense whole foods and products with functional ingredients continue to take center stage.

As there is more education about the benefits of certain bacteria in the digestive system, foods and beverages containing fiber, pre-, pro-, and postbiotics will continue to gain traction. These microbiome solutions can help reduce systemic inflammation, boosting overall immune functionality.

There is also an increase in accessible, convenient and functional foods that can be easily incorporated into daily routines. For example, herbal soups are becoming popular due to their immune system benefits. The preference now goes to ready-to-eat and ready-to-drink variants of this product, rather than a sachet of broth which takes three hours to boil.

Relieving stress and improving sleep quality are imperative in the realm of mental well-being. That’s why products like Yakult 1000, which contain the highest number of probiotics among the brand’s fermented milk drinks, become an attractive choice.

Infusing products with healthy, functional ingredients and collaborating with academics and experts to do so is always the way to go.

Local ingredients that provide health benefits will take center stage. Courtesy of WGSN

Return to premises

Another trend that is gaining traction and partly driven by the pandemic and mobility restrictions is to use simple, familiar ingredients. Others seek inspiration and let themselves be influenced by local flavors and raw materials specific to each region.

This trend started in the restaurant business, where chefs are discovering forgotten flavors and using sustainable, seasonal local ingredients. Besides the ingredients, old cooking methods are also brought to the fore. These practices will eventually influence the food processing sector as well.

It’s about embracing our own unique cultures and roots, finding inspiration in our own stories, and tapping into local farms. Then incorporating personal expression and infusion, this provides diversity in lesser-known raw materials.

Additionally, traditionally Asian ingredients are being brought to the West, repackaged, reconceptualized and translated into new formats for this market to consume. Common ingredients like Koji are considered “new” and “innovative” on this side of the world, attracting more experimental customers. In particular, this trend is seen in California and parts of the West Coast where there are a lot of disruptors and innovators in F&B.

Suppliers must also ensure that their products provide an enjoyable dining experience. Courtesy of ADM

Minimize social impact

As physical health and emotional well-being continue to take center stage, social impact and long-term environmental effects are also considered. Consumers are willing to pay more for products that care for the plant and demonstrate sustainability.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, plastic waste and switching to renewable energy sources are well-regarded practices. Companies then need to be transparent about their sourcing and manufacturing processes, ensuring they are ethical and sustainable.

This is also why the plant and alternative protein segments are accelerating at a rapid pace in the industry. These are considered “high-tech” foods and are packaged in familiar formats to increase market awareness. The creation and reinvention of climate hero foods that use less water, energy and other natural resources will be even more visible

In particular, science-based innovation in F&B has been more widely accepted in Asia. India and China are more enthusiastic about cell-based meat, while Singapore is the first country to support the cultured meat industry through government-led campaigns. And that seems to make sense because the whole concept of zero waste and sustainability is familiar in many Asian cultures.

“In fact, this kind of practice has been ingrained in Asian culture for many, many years. It’s just that no one has talked about it so far,” says Jess Tang, senior APAC consultant at WGSN. It is common practice to ensure that every part of a product, animal or food is used and not wasted. Asians have been doing this for generations, aware of their own practices and resources.

Beyond these trends, it is important for F&B players to have a thorough understanding of what the target market is looking for. It’s about making sure your product offerings reflect those needs, so growth opportunities are abundant in the new year.

Information provided by Pan Hong, Vice President, Asia-Pacific Marketing at ADM; and Jess Tang, APAC Senior Consultant at WGSN.

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