ASIA January 2020
5 Major Trends to Watch for 2020
2020 will be an interesting year to watch as the world will see dramatic shifts in several perspectives.
On the economic front, the US-China trade war has taken a 'breather' with the conclusion of US-China Phase 1 Trade Deal on 16 January whereby China agreed to buy US$200 billion of US goods, of which roughly 20% of these are farm/food products over a period of 2 years, in return the US is expected to reduce its tariffs on several Chinese imports and cancel duties that were set to take effect in December.
Both economic giants, US and China have approximately 40% share of the world's GDP which was estimated at close to US$86 trillion in 2018. As such, with such a dominant economic clout, any changes in economic policies which affects one or both countries will trickle down to the global community.
Apart from the economic uncertainties, we have identified 5 major trends relating to the food and beverage industry, which will have a lasting impact to Asia in the many years to come.

Low Sugar/Sugar Replacement in food products
There is definitely rising health awareness against excessive consumption of sugar, which is indirectly accelerated by various health programs as well as sugar taxes and restrictions imposed by several Asian governments to tackle rising issues of diabetes, heart diseases and obesity in many ASEAN countries.
As a result, more and more companies are joining in the bandwagon to offer no or low sugar products in their portfolio. Many are also looking for sugar replacement alternatives like stevia and natural sweeteners which do not compromise on the taste of products and yet healthy. One interesting formulation is the use of Tate & Lyle's sugar replacer like allulose, a low-calorie sweetening agent which has close to sugar-like taste.
For those companies that still want to use sugar in their product formulations, Malaysia's Central Sugars Refinery Sdn Bhd (CSR) had teamed up with Singapore-based Nutrition Innovation in 2019 to bring healthier sugar and sugar reduction solutions. CSR offers 'Better Brown' low glycemic sugar which leverages on Nucane technology from Nutrition Innovation.
Plant-based Alternatives
2020 will be the year where many new ventures relating to the plant-based movement will take off by launching new products, many of which will focus on meat substitutes. Leading the pack will be Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat which had finally advanced from supplying only to fine/casual dining restaurants to now supplying to fast food outlets and also directly to consumers through grocery retail stores. These companies will intensify their distribution network, while also introduce a more diversified range of products from initially focusing on 'beef' to 'pork' and then 'lamb' and 'fish' substitutes.
One major challenge these companies will face will be in getting Halal certification from various bodies with regards to controversial 'meat' products like Impossible Pork.
Based on our recent interview with Andrew Ive, Founder and Managing GP of Big Idea Ventures, he disclosed 2 high-potential new ventures in this field for the Asian region in 2020. They are Phuture Foods and Black Sheep Foods. Phuture Foods has developed a natural, 100% plant-based minced pork, through its proprietary processing method that non-GMO soy, chickpeas and peas. The product tastes, feels and looks like meat, yet it is lower in calories (65%), fats (90%) and has no cholesterol, as compared to animal pork.
Black Sheep Foods, on the other hand, has developed a 100% plant-based lamb product. They have successfully identified flavor compounds that give lamb its taste including the unique pastoral notes. They claimed to have tested their lamb flavor against Givaudan’s lamb flavor, and won the test. Initial texture experiments have also been completed.
These 2 companies are set to launch their products in 2020: Phuture Foods plans to launch its plant-based minced pork in 1st quarter 2020, while Black Sheep will be launching its ‘lamb’ product sometime in 2nd or 3rd quarter 2020.
(For more information from our interview with Andrew Ive, please visit our website at

Asian Flavors Boom
While much attention has been placed on traditional flavors like Vanilla, Chocolate, Blueberry and Strawberry, industry players seem to have forgotten the rich varieties of flavors offered by our Asian counterparts which are yet to be fully explored to its fullest potential.
Traditional age-old flavors which have a mild yet soothing fragrant and taste like 'Pandan' can have universal application in both food and beverage products. Very little progress has been made to incorporate Pandan into juices and other beverages.
In the past few years, we saw a proliferation of bakery, snacks and confectionery products which utilise 'Salted Egg' in their new products. So far, the sales results have been encouraging to start with and there is a possibility that 'Salted Egg' will be a lasting flavor variant in many existing product formulations in Asia.
Apart from Pandan and Salted Egg, there are also many Asian-based fruits flavors like the 'kwini' mangos which are native to only ASEAN countries like Indonesia, which emit a unique sweet flavor with a fragrant resinous smell.
Rising Elderly population requires special food products
In the recent inaugural edition of Eldex Asia 2019 Eldercare exhibition held in November in Singapore, there was a Food For Elders pavilion led by Enterprise Singapore, which featured food products by Singapore companies that cater to the special needs of this 'silver' (elderly) demographic group.
In a presentation done by Spire Research & Consulting, Indonesia has been identified as having the largest number of elderly population in ASEAN estimated at more than 29 million, but Singapore (27%) and Thailand (23%) will have the largest proportion of elderly in 2035.
With the huge population of elderly in ASEAN, i.e. people who are above 65 years old, who are estimated to cross 78 million by 2035, food and beverage companies need to formulate more products that are specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of this population.
In China alone, the number of people above the age of 50 has reached 250 million in 2019.
Currently, research and development efforts are underway by MNCs like Nestle to look into medical, nutraceuticals and nutritional food products to cater to this population, however this is not sufficient and up to scale yet. More R&D efforts need to be taken to tap the potential of creating staple 'daily' food and beverages that cater to the nutritional requirements of this huge and growing population.

Growing Sustainability Movement
This final trend to watch is probably one of the most important due to the impact that it can cause to a food business. Many countries in the developed parts of the world in Europe and America, have empowered this 'Sustainability Movement' by devising new laws and regulations to curtail the sales of products which they feel are sourced from unsustainable origins.
One industry which faces tremendous challenge is Palm Oil industry, which is one of the most important trade commodities for Indonesia and Malaysia.
Palm Oil is an essential commodity which has many applications in food products like cooking oil, confectionery, snacks and margarine amongst others. A sustainability certification for a palm oil plantation is now a necessity in many countries to ensure that it can sell or export its products.
In 2020, Singapore is launching a publicity and business engagement campaign led by local non-government organisation People’s Movement to encourage Singaporean businesses to use palm oil produced by environmentally friendly technologies. Singapore aims to become the 1st country in the world to only use sustainable palm oil. The campaign encourages Singaporeans to switch to environmentally friendly palm oil and will initially focus on restaurants and cooking oil before targeting other businesses.
'Sustainability' does not only revolve around agricultural practices, but also 'sustainable' raw materials ingredients and 'sustainable' (fair) labour use and work conditions, as well as 'sustainable' packaging.
A growing number of Asian food companies are focusing on the use of quality raw materials sourced from credible suppliers to manufacture food products that are later packaged in materials that can be recycled. We will see dramatic shift towards 'sustainable' food products as Asian consumers have higher disposable incomes.
ASEAN countries like Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand belong to the Top 10 polluters of the world's ocean due to large number of plastic wastes and straws thrown into the sea. Consumers are now becoming more aware of climate change and the drastic effects of forest fires and sea pollution can have on the environment.
We will definitely see growing interest by ASEAN food companies - from food ingredients suppliers to manufacturers to food service operators (restaurants) in 2020 - to look for sustainably sourced raw materials as well as sustainable packaging options for their products.



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