An independent think tank on alternative proteins based in Australia, Food Frontier has recently released a report on the potential of alternative proteins in 5 selected Asian countries namely China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Thailand. A survey on 5,000 consumers in these countries was also conducted with further consultations with Mintel, while over 500 plant-based meat products were analysed in the compilation of this report.
The report uncovers key findings and they are as follows:
- Foodservice is the best entry point to grow consumer awareness and trial of plant-based meat products.
- Taste, price and perception of being overly processed are the most common barriers to plant-based meat consumption.
- Health is the primary driver for plant-based meat consumption in all markets except Singapore where environmental concerns is the top driver.
- Industry experts highlighted the opportunity for hybrid alternative proteins – which is a combination of ingredients produced through cellular agriculture such as fats made with precision fermentation, together with cultivated meat or plant-based proteins to create new hybrid products with an improved flavor profile or mouthfeel, at a possibly lower cost.
In this report, the 5 key markets were selected as representing the greatest export opportunity for Australian and New Zealand businesses. The following metrics showed the various countries’ ranking based on their attractiveness for Australian and New Zealand exporters. China seems to be the most attractive with favorable ranking on 3 criterias followed by Singapore and South Korea. (refer to Chart 1.0)
Despite being the smallest market in terms of population, Singapore leads the alternative protein sector in terms of public and private investment in 2022 followed by China and South Korea (see Chart 2.0).
In terms of dietary preferences, Japan has the highest proportion of meat eaters (91%) followed by South Korea (84%). Thai consumers, on the other hand, has a large number of flexitarians (38%) followed by China and Singapore. (see Chart 3.0)
Meanwhile, health is the overwhelming reason for consuming plant-based meat in all countries except for Singapore where environmental concerns is the leading reason. Other drivers include safety concerns; like the taste; and to add more sources of proteins to the diet. (see Chart 4.0)
In all markets, health attributes, ease of preparation and meat-like quality are the major criterias that consumers consider when purchasing plant-based meats. In China, high protein content and the use of all-natural ingredients are cited as the most important criterias among both plant-based meat buyers and those interested in buying the products. China places more importance on environmental and organic qualities than any of the 5 focus markets.
High protein content is also the most important criteria for consumers in Thailand. Meanwhile, in Singapore and South Korea, ease of cooking and preparation are more important than other factors, whereas consumers in Japan prefer meat like quality of plant-based meat products. (see Chart 5.0)
Last but not least, price of plant-based meat products is still a large barrier for Asian consumers as they are usually sold at a premium compared to the conventional meat products. Once the price gap is closed, we should probably see a large pick-up in demand from consumers in these countries. Price has become an even more sensitive purchasing obstacle especially during the current inflationary period.
China is Asia’s largest market for meat substitutes accounting for 67% of all meat substitutes revenue in Asia. It has an estimated revenue of US$2.13 billion in 2022 and one of the highest CAGR at 20% between 2022 and 2027. (see Chart 6.0).