The following table is the latest market sizes for selected food and beverage ingredients in ASEAN countries, including China, Hong Kong and Australia. The figures below are based on volume consumption in tonnes.
It is obvious that from the chart, China is the biggest market for food and beverage ingredients in Asia followed by Indonesia, Australia and Thailand.
MAJOR TRENDS TO WATCH IN THE F&B INGREDIENTS SEGMENT IN ASIA
Cocoa bean production in Asia has experienced a volatile period of ups and downs over the past decades. In the 1980s, annual cocoa production in Asia hovered around 400,000 tonnes, but it went up to 600,000 tonnes in the mid-2000s. However, presently that figure has dwindled back to 400,000 tonnes.
Despite the growing popularity of chocolates and cocoa-derived products in Asia, we have witnessed the almost complete disappearance of cocoa cultivation in Malaysia. In Indonesia, the trend is also disturbing, however Indonesia has remained as a main supplier of cocoa beans in Asia and to the factories in the region.
The growing trend for health and wellness products, and consumers’ desire to cut down on sugar consumption, will shape the future for cocoa-based ingredients and its applications in food and beverage products.
According to Callebaut, cocoa and chocolates are still on an upward trend in Asia with a regional growth of 5%.
In the chocolate industry, soy lecithin is the most commonly used emulsifier and is obtained from the cell membrane of the soybean. The use of such emulsifier helps to act as a cheaper substitute to the more expensive cocoa butter. Despite the advantages, lecithin is still considered as artificial as it is usually extracted with chemicals.
Colour is one of the most decisive buying criteria for food and beverages as it communicates quality, taste and value. However, more and more consumers are demanding for products that are 'free-from' artificial preservatives and coloring, while continue to favour products that are appealing to the senses.
GNT Group is one such company that can offer high-performance color with naturalness, by simply coloring food with food. GNT boasts of its EXBERRY® which is now the number one brand for coloring food products. All EXBERRY® concentrates are made exclusively from fruit, vegetables and edible plants by using only gentle physical methods.
Colouring Foods are comparable to artificial or natural colouring additives in terms of variety, stability, shelf life and brilliance. They impart every desired colour shade to all kinds of products – ranging from confectionery, snacks, dairy and bakery products to ice cream, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and savoury applications.
With stronger consumer groups in Asia to lobby against the use of additives and artificial substances in food products, demand for natural colours will grow rapidly although it still not yet in a position to replace its cheaper cousin, artificial coloring, which is still widely used in emerging Asian countries like Vietnam, Philippines and Myanmar among others.
In Southeast Asia, food emulsifier is mainly used in meat products, dairy products, ice cream, bakery, confectionery, convenience food and others.
The rising demand for convenience food has indirectly increased the demand for food emulsifiers. The rise in the number of food borne diseases in the region is also driving growth of the food emulsifiers market as emulsifiers are needed to prevent bacterial spoilage and maintain product quality.
Consumer preference for low-fat foods due to growing health awareness is one of the major factors that boost demand for food emulsifiers in Asia.
Research done by Transparency Market Research last year highlighted that Thailand is an untapped market and is projected to offer significant growth opportunities for manufacturers during the forecast period till 2021.
Despite this, ASEAN food emulsifier market is not without challenges as it faces stringent government regulations in countries like Thailand and Singapore, which set safety standards to assess whether a preservative is safe for its intended use.
The food emulsifier market in ASEAN is segmented into stearoyl lactylates, sorbiton esters, lecithin, mono, di-glycerides & derivatives and others. The mono, di-glycerides & derivatives segment has the largest market share followed by the lecithin segment. Sorbiton esters is used extensively in low fat foods and it also helps to maintain food standards and quality. As such, sorbiton esters are set to grow at a considerable rate compared to other segments.
Edible oils, mostly derived from vegetables and nuts like palm oil, cottonseed, soybean, peanut and coconut, are an essential part of the food manufacturing process, and is used either in cooking or as supplements (ingredients) in the food products.
Fats, saturated or unsaturated, are extensively used in a multiple of dairy products like butter and cheese, and in bakery and confectionery products, as well as processed food like burger patties and pizza. With the growing demand for processed food, demand for fats will continue to grow in Asia.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has labelled coconut oil and palm oil, 2 major products being produced in ASEAN countries, as unhealthy. The vegetable-oil producers in the West, led by the Americans through the AHA, has revived the long-discredited assertion that coconut oil as well as palm oil are high in saturated fats and can cause cardio-vascular and other diseases and is, therefore, unhealthy and should not be consumed.
Despite this, food producers in ASEAN refuse to accept the claims and continue to use both products in cooking as well as supplements (ingredients) in the food products. It is apparent that the vegetable oil producers in the west that specialise in corn, canola and soybean oils are also pursuing their interests to promote their products.
Fats, on the other hand, often carry negative connotations to health and some would want to eliminate it altogether from their diet. However, our human body needs fats from food as it is a major source of energy and it helps to absorb some vitamins and minerals. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats while bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle.
Trans fat is often listed on food label ingredients as 'partially hydrogenated oil'. There is a growing trend in Asia in which food manufacturers are moving towards replacing trans fat with monounsaturated/polyunsaturated fats. In the past, trans fats were often used in margarines, vegetable shortening, pastries/cookies and french fries but they are now rapidly being eliminated from the food supply. Trans fats increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol and create inflammation which is linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes among others.
There is a growing trend in favor of Asian-inspired flavor profiles not only in Asia but also in other regions like the US and Europe. Asian flavors have now dominated retail shelves from snacks to confectionery to frozen foods.
Another growing trend is the increasing popularity of 'spicy' food inspired from the Thai, Indian or Japanese counterparts with the popular tom yum, curry or wasabi flavors finding wide applications in snacks, instant noodles and other products. Latest report by Kalsex® HeatSync® Heat Index confirmed the growing popularity of spicy ingredients in food with the index rose 6% from the previous year. In 2016, more than 18,000 new spicy products were introduced, according to the report.
One non-ethnic flavor has however continued to dominate the scene i.e. vanilla. It is a universal flavor popular in both Asian and other markets and have been widely applied in food products within the snacks, bakery, confectionery and dairy segments among others.
One major manufacturer of Vanilla, Firmenich is pursuing the development and marketing of a new range of 'sustainable' and cost-effective natural vanilla sourced from Asian countries like Indonesia and India.
With the growing health-conscious trend in Asia, consumers are rapidly looking for products with less sugar or using sugar-substitutes or 'natural' sweeteners like stevia.
Nevertheless, artificial sweeteners still have the largest share of the market in Asia while natural high intensity sweeteners are expected to register the fastest growth. Growing health concerns associated with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin are driving consumers' interest in natural sweeteners.
Steviol glycosides (stevia) mainly drive the growth in the natural high intensity sweeteners space followed by monk fruit extract mogroside V in the near future.
Growth of high intensity sweeteners in developed countries in North America and Western Europe has slowed down mainly due to decline in soft drink consumption. However, high growth is expected to continue in emerging regions such as Asia Pacific and the Middle East.
In Asia, one major manufacturer of stevia, Malaysia-based PureCircle has also developed the first commercially viable stevia antioxidant for the food and beverage segment. PureCircle has also launched in July a new stevia cocoa and vanilla flavor enhancers which enable companies to manufacture products at an affordable price, apart from the advantage that these products can be labelled as containing natural flavors.
Another sugar substitute which might see growing application in this region is Isomalt. In April this year, Evonik Industries formed partnership with Thai-based Rajburi Sugar to manufacture Isomalt in this region.
In contrast to other sugar substitutes, Isomalt absorbs virtually no moisture from ambient air. Since it does not clump during manufacturing, or as an end product, it is particularly suitable for candies, sweets and other treats as they do not stick together and therefore do not need to be packaged individually. Moreover, they fulfill consumers’ high expectations in terms of aesthetics and health. Isomalt is tooth-friendly and only has limited bioavailability, translating into fewer calories and less guilt when being indulgent.