September 2019
'Food Safety' beats 'Health' as the top cleaner label priority in APMEA
Latest research commissioned by Kerry on 13 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa (APMEA) found that 52% of consumers look for cleaner labels when shopping, however clean eating in the East is very different from the West.
This research report, based on both quantitative and qualitative analysis, including expert interviews as well as a consumer survey comprising of 4,000 respondents, revealed that claims relating to ‘food safety’ are more important than ‘health’ and ‘sustainability’ claims for APMEA consumers.
This report findings recognise the need for manufacturers to differentiate APMEA from other developed regions in Europe and the America, and there is a serious need for F&B brands to localise their cleaner label strategies in order to succeed in this region.
There are 4 major trends identified in the Kerry report and they are as follows:

Safety Concerns top the ranking
The 3 most important claims that APMEA consumers look for in food and beverage products revolve around the elimination of ingredients which they perceive as harmful and these are ‘no artificial additives/preservatives’ (ranked 1st) followed by ‘no pesticides/pollutants’ (2nd) and ‘no antibiotics/growth hormones’(3rd). See Chart 1.0 for more details.
These ranking seem to be consistent across all product categories from snacks, soups to meat, dairy and confectionery amongst others.
John Savage, President and CEO of Kerry Asia said, “A lot of countries in APMEA have histories of high-profile food scandals due to poor food processing and handling and malpractices, so it’s not surprising that food safety trumps health and environmental claims to be the top cleaner label priority in this region.” He added that health and sustainability are also beginning to drive shopping and consumption behavior in APMEA, however they both operate in the context of food safety. As such, F&B brands must take this into consideration when communicating with consumers in this region.
Fat Reduction tops the Health agenda
There is a marked difference in ‘healthy’ eating in APMEA as compared to Europe/America. The western counterpart views ‘healthy eating’ as focusing more on carbohydrates and sugar reduction, whereas in APMEA, consumers view ‘fat reduction’ as their top health concern.
Kerry research showed that 53% of APMEA consumers would pay a premium for products with no/low fat claims. (refer to Chart 2.0)
Desire for weight management in order to improve appearance is one of the key drivers of this trend, with 2 in five APMEA consumers saying that they associate healthier food with food that makes them look better. This is a particularly strong message for consumers in South East Asia, with more than 50% of shoppers in the Philippines and Thailand associating healthy food claims with benefits for their appearance.
Another major reason in favor of ‘fat reduction’ is the growing concern over obesity-related diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer as 41% of consumers in Asia Pacific are overweight or obese, up from 35% in 1990.

Sustainability linked to health benefits
Meanwhile, 'sustainably-sourced' ranks not far behind 'reduced fat' in terms of its importance to APMEA consumers. (refer to Chart 1.0)
However, APMEA consumers perceive sustainably-sourced products as 'healthy' instead of being motivated by environmental concerns. More than half (55%) of respondents said that they are likely to purchase sustainably-sourced food as they believe that it is healthier for them.
Attitudes to Provenance varies across countries
In this research, provenance has become a shortcut for many APMEA consumers to judge all 3 cleaner label priorities – safety, health and the environment.
The trust that consumers place in local provenance varies greatly from country to country with Japan scoring highest at 43% while China gets the lowest score (3%), with countries like Australia (38%), Turkey (26%), Saudi Arabia (7%), India (7%) and the rest of Southeast Asia falling in the middle. (see Chart 3.0)
John said, "Provenance is an increasingly important cleaner label message across the region, but the disparity in how much trust consumers place in local produce means that brands need to take a very nuanced approach – promoting local ingredients and production in some markets, whilst focusing on international sourcing in others where this is considered to be a better sign of safety.”
When consumers in the region do buy food products made from local ingredients, this is mainly driven by a desire to support local communities (31%), followed by assurances that it is safer than imported produce (26%), a perception that local produce is healthier (22%) and the belief that local produce is cheaper (21%).

According to John, with growing consumer awareness on health and the environment, the impact of cleaner label on purchase decisions in APMEA is only going to continue increasing in years to come. The surest route to success is for brands to frame their health and environment benefits in the context of food safety.
“However, in this region in particular – where ‘unhealthy’ ingredients, like fat and sugar, underpin a lot of traditional dishes – it is also critical that the quest for cleaner label doesn’t compromise taste. The F&B brands that are best placed to succeed will be those that can satisfy consumer demand for safety, health and sustainability, whilst preserving their traditional tastes,” he added.
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