A Growing Appetite for Healthier Food in Southeast Asia and India 

A Growing Appetite for Healthier Food in Southeast Asia and India 


Healthy food choices in Southeast Asia

 

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

Healthy food choices in Southeast Asia - role of influencers

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 recipeHeussaff 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.  

Brand takeaways

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.

 

To find out more about Southeast Asia’s changing views on food, health, and wellness, please get in touch with our team of experts.

 

Fandom influencer marketing

 

In Southeast Asia, the growing presence of fandoms –  ecosystems of people with deep commitment and loyalty to certain brands or celebrities – is unlocking new opportunities for brands to stay relevant and keep consumer engagement high.  

By tapping into pre-existing fandoms, brands can create deep and meaningful relationships with consumers that are founded on mutual trust and genuine interest rather than focusing solely on wide-scale exposure. These fans are loyal and wholeheartedly willing to support their favorite celebrity influencers and the brands they endorse, as they perceive their support for their favored idols as a contribution to those idols’ success, which results in mutually beneficial relationships for brands, celebrities, and fans alike. 

The power of this raw and authentic connection recently led Vero to launch our influencer marketing stack, InFluent — a combination of products and services designed to help brands in Southeast Asia achieve their business and reputational goals through influencer marketing. Through InFluent, Vero connects brands with influencers who can create meaningful impact for their campaigns by engaging with their followers in an authentic way, ensuring brand messages are delivered to the right audience.

Why influencer fandom marketing works

Being part of a fandom allows people to connect with others who share their interests and to define their social and (sub)cultural identities. This sense of community and belonging is crucial for Gen Z.   

Fandoms also provide a sense of escapism for Gen Z consumers. Daily life can feel overwhelming and stressful due to responsibilities like school or work and pressures from social media and family. Fandoms provide a safe space for Gen Z to be themselves and temporarily forget about the mundanity of real life. 

Additionally, fandoms can be a source of personal growth and self-discovery for this generation. By exploring their passions and interests, they can develop new skills and learn more about themselves and what they want. For example, Gen Z fans of K-Pop artists are starting to learn Korean to understand their idols better and embrace the culture they’re so fond of. Fandoms also like to show their love and support for their heroes by working hard to push their communications to the top — and even turn them into viral trends. Brands can piggyback on this support and use it to their advantage.   

There are several ways to tap into an influencer fandom. For example, brands could host a press event, partner with influencers as brand ambassadors, organize meet-and-greet events, offer exclusive merchandise giveaways, or create a call sign for fans to use. By leveraging these tactics, brands can connect with and engage their target audience more personally and credibly.   

Additionally, brands can play with subcultural insights and tap into the competitive nature of fandoms. For example, K-pop fandoms playfully compete with one another: which group can get the most reach online? Have the most fans in attendance at an event? Or even get their favorite influencer in the headlines (for the right reasons)? Regardless of the goal, brands can harness this competitive spirit to boost engagement and interest.  

Fandom influencer marketing

 

Vero recently worked with Thai mega-influencer Archen ‘Joong’ Aydin, who has 2.1 million followers on Instagram, on a pop-up event campaign for Gucci Beauty and King Power which aimed to build enthusiasm for duty-free shopping. Joong’s throngs of fans attended the event daily, organically creating their own trending hashtag (#GuccibeautyxJoong), which accumulated over 8,800 tweets throughout the event.    

Joong Archen started his career as a model before becoming an actor. His earliest role was as Green in the 2019 Thai TV drama “2Moons2”, which was a hit among young audiences and helped to boost Joong’s popularity and visibility in mainstream media.  

But it’s Joong’s successful social media presence that cemented his brand. He has a large, loyal, and passionate following on social media, which has attracted the attention of businesses and companies and built momentum for his career in the Thai entertainment industry. 

How to nurture brand-fandom relationships

Fans are passionate advocates, and they’re proud of it. They engage with their favorite celebrities and brands on social media, display brand logos, and show off merchandise. A 2022 study by the National Research Group (NRG) found that 54% of fans agree they want everyone to know they are a fan of a product or brand. 

For example, the massive success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie can be attributed to the enthusiasm of the millions of fans of the 40-year-old video game series. Ultra-dedicated fans were even dressing up in costumes and sharing fan art on social media platforms. Thanks to the overwhelming fan response around the world, the movie is getting a sequel soon. 

But this tremendous fervor also means fans don’t shy away from expressing dislike or frustration with brands that don’t meet their expectations. Several global brands have faced boycott calls for supporting or not supporting social causes such as LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Some brand backlash stems from differences in political and religious stands (or the lack thereof), such as the boycott of Indonesian bread manufacturer PT Nippon Indosari Corpindo in December 2016 by an Islamic group that campaigned for the imprisonment of then-Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. The boycott became a major challenge for the brand as Indonesian consumers increasingly demanded accountability from them.

The Facebook boycott in 2020 by multinational companies and platform users alike over hate speech and misinformation shifted social media users’ attention toward Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit, which instituted more significant changes in combatting hate and harassment. 

The power fans hold in determining the fate of brands and products is undeniable. They can elevate visibility and generate buzz, but they can also cause significant damage to reputation. It’s vital for brands to know how to properly nurture relationships with these passionate fan communities. Showing genuine appreciation for the fandom’s support is crucial, so brands should prioritize authenticity, transparency, and active engagement.  

The same report by NRG states that “brands that enable excitement, discovery, expression, connection, and belonging” can convert a customer base from loyalists and followers to die-hard advocates. To gain a fan is to earn a customer’s faith not only in its current products but also its potential, fueling opportunities for successful long-term brand growth and development, the report adds. 

Fandoms provide a unique opportunity for brands to reach new audiences and build long-lasting consumer relationships. By tapping into fandom marketing, companies can generate earned media value, create trending topics across multiple social media platforms, and increase conversions. With the right strategy and approach, businesses can effectively leverage influencer fandoms to create a new army of loyal consumers.