Southeast Asia and India’s highly diverse culinary landscapes have seen significant shifts over the past years. With emerging food trends and the rise of technologies that impact consumers’ journey from buying to dining, conversations about food have become a lot more complex than just what to eat for dinner.
As a result, consumers in Southeast Asia have become more knowledgeable about healthier eating habits, which include actively seeking more nutritious, sustainable food options to improve their mental, physical, and psychological well-being.
Vero teamed up with India-based agency ON PURPOSE to examine consumers in Southeast Asia and their growing appetites for healthier food.
Consumers seek healthier food options
Asia-Pacific health and wellness food market is forecasted to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.9% by 2029, according to Data Bridge Market Research. This is boosted by the growing demand for healthy and nutrition-rich foods and the rise in the number of health-conscious consumers in the region.
A survey conducted by Vero and Decision Lab found that 53% of those polled said they are eating more fruits and vegetables, with 43% eating more plant-based food. Among the 11 markets surveyed, the Philippines ranked highest (62%) in their openness to plant-based foods, showing Filipinos’ evolving focus on health and wellness.
In India, the market size of the F&B industry is expected to reach $505.92 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 11.05%. According to research by Mintel, 74% of food and drink shoppers agree that a greater variety of healthy prepared food options should be made available. Additionally, 34% of Indian consumers indicated they are likelier to buy ready-to-eat meals labeled as low/reduced salt.
Post-COVID, brands have increased their healthy food offerings by 40%, and online aggregators have seen a 3x rise in the number of orders for healthy food. Demands for keto food have increased by 23%, and plant-based and vegan food orders have risen by 83%. Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Mumbai have emerged as the most health-conscious cities in India.
On-demand food delivery services are on the rise
Food delivery services have been around for a while, but how consumers engage with them has changed rapidly over the past two years.
COVID-19 changed everything when it comes to online delivery services. A survey conducted by Kantar and NielsenIQ in 2022 found that 77% of consumers regard food and grocery delivery as a way of life rather than as a necessity, as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, or an indulgence, as it was before it. Consumers are shifting their food journey online, primarily using delivery apps as search engines, and 88% have discovered new food sellers through these apps — many of which are not restaurants but delivery-only outlets.
Driven by factors such as increased digitalization, the rise of the gig economy, and changes to consumer and family lifestyles, 90% of consumers in Southeast Asia pre-purchased food vouchers and took note of peer reviews on online delivery platforms. Another 90% of consumers prefer brands with an integrated online-to-offline experience.
The on-demand food delivery industry in India is estimated to be worth $22.5 billion by the end of 2027, expanding at a CAGR of 30%. The increased adoption of the internet and smartphones, the rise in working families, especially the growing participation of women in the workforce, and rapid lifestyle changes are driving the growth of on-demand food delivery platforms. However, the industry also faces challenges such as fake food shops on online platforms, ethical issues around gig economy workers, and their lack of benefits and personal expenses.
Food bloggers are a driving force
For example, Erwan Heussaff (@erwan) is based in the Philippines and has over 2 million followers on Instagram. He has been cooking from the age of 8 and worked in multinational food corporations in Russia and the Philippines. His TikTok channel has recently been focusing on low-cost, healthy, and convenient options like this savory oats recipe. Heussaff also experiments with other forms when it comes to food vlogs, tapping into ASMR trends like this pancake food ASMR, which received 240k views on TikTok.
Feedy VN (@feedyvn) is a Vietnamese food vlogger with over 5 million subscribers on YouTube. They share recipe videos, cooking tutorials, food vlogs highlighting the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine, and unboxing and testing lifestyle products.
In India, brands reach out to celebrity-status influencers to create creative campaigns that appeal to Gen Z and Millennials. For example, food delivery platform Zomato partnered with singer-producer Tesher to integrate the brand in a remix of the Canadian Indian rapper’s 2020 song ‘Jalebi Baby,’ which became a TikTok chartbuster. Remixed with American singer Jason Derulo, the July 2021 digital release of ‘Jalebi Baby’ coincided with Zomato’s blockbuster IPO.
Value is defined by trust, quality, and taste
When we think about food and value, price is often the first thing to come to mind. But as Southeast Asian consumers become better informed on how to make healthier food choices, they’ve come to prioritize quality, safety, and taste.
Consumers demand more transparency from brands about their products’ origins, labeling, nutritional value, and mental and long-term health benefits. For example, in India, we have started to see brands expanding their offering to include ingredients like essential minerals in glucose and electrolyte-based drinks, which help consumers to hydrate rapidly.
Brand trust is crucial for consumers in Southeast Asia, with 84% wanting to trust the brand before making a purchase. As such, brands should be transparent regarding labeling and clearly outline how ingredients impact mental and physical health.
To reach their target audience effectively, brands should establish a robust online presence, including social media platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Food influencers have also become strong trendsetters, using their online popularity to drive food trends and engage with audiences. Brands can leverage influencers’ authentic connection with the market by having them advocate for the products. A presence on e-commerce platforms and food delivery apps can also help brands reach a wider audience and convert sales.
Brands can partner with other brands to reach new audiences, cross-promote products, and foster innovation. To engage with their audience, brands can create touchpoints, such as online contests or mini-games, food festivals, food sampling, and activations. Hosting workshops and building communities can also be effective ways for brands to establish themselves as thought leaders and build strong relationships with their audience.
Overall, having a healthy lifestyle is a prominent trend across Southeast Asia as consumers become more conscious and seek out healthier food options. By understanding the unique insights and trends in each market, brands can create products and experiences that align with consumers’ values and drive growth in the healthy living sector.
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