Introduction

Each year, Vero researches and analyzes in-depth data on market trends, providing insights for brands and industries, and leveraging strategic communication and marketing plans. This year, we are happy to partner with Decision Lab to conduct research on the changes to Filipinos’ health and wellness habits post-COVID-19.

This white paper is an opportunity for brands to see how the health, wellness, and F&B industries have changed and what consumers need from them now.

Decision Lab is a leading agile market research agency in Southeast Asia. “Our expertise enables us to capture the latest F&B, digitalization, and Gen Z trends and insights. Besides helping multinational clients tackle critical business challenges through research, we also focus on establishing thought leadership in hot-button marketing issues in local markets,” says Thue Quist Thomasen, CEO of Decision Lab

In a recent study into healthy eating trends in Southeast Asia, 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 foodsi.

Research also shows that 88% of those surveyed said they felt a positive change in their health since eating healthier during the pandemic, and 83% plan to keep the dietary changes that they made for a prolonged period after the pandemicii.

Business Context

In the wake of COVID-19, it’s clear that health and wellness consciousness is rising among Filipinos.

Research shows that only 1% of consumers say they are not interested in improving their diet, with 56% claiming they mostly maintain a healthy diet and 40% stating they often buy less healthy food and drinkiii.

Methodology

Together with Decision Lab, we conducted research in Metro Manila, and further afield, gathering data from 830 respondents via 31 questions.

In parallel, Vero’s Data & Insight team also conducted research on Google search data and discussions on social media platforms between 2018 and 2022, with further research in 2023.

Combining these research methods with our skills and experience in this area, we seek to provide brands with information accuracy and the understanding of changes in culture, and lifestyle as well as the causes of these changes to health and food habits in the Philippines.

Market

In a recent study into healthy eating trends in Southeast Asia, 53% of those polled said they eat more fruits and vegetables, with 43% eating more plant-based foods. Among the 11 markets surveyed, the Philippines ranked highestiii (62%) in their openness to plant-based foods. 88% of those surveyed said they felt a positive change in their health since eating healthier during the pandemic, and 83% plan to keep the dietary changes that they made for a prolonged period after the pandemiciv. Research shows that only 1% of consumers say they are not interested in improving their diet, with 56% claiming they mostly maintain a healthy diet and 40% stating they often buy less healthy food and drinkv.

Home is where your health is

COVID-19 closed restaurants and food outlets everywhere, forcing people to eat at home.

Takeaways, meal kits, and home cooking became the only options for mealtimes. Food delivery grew by 183% in Southeast Asia in 2020vi. The annual growth rate of the food delivery segment is expected at 8.31% resulting in a projected market volume of US$496.70m by 2027.

But in the Philippines, inflation has hit a 14-year high, at 8.1% with food inflation increasing to 10.6% in December 2022. Onions are now more expensive than meat, a tray of 30 eggs now costs more than a dressed chicken, and because of weather disturbances, the price of sugar and rice has also increasedvii.

For consumers, this increase in prices has meant adapting their diet, and making changes to balance the budget. For many Filipinos’ visiting a fast-food restaurant was a weekly tradition, but the hike in prices means that Pinoys are prioritizing healthier options instead.

From our social listening research, we can see that consumers are preparing ‘baon’ or lunch boxes to take to work instead of visiting fast-food restaurants. This indicates a rise in demand for flasks, Tupperware, and lunch boxes for adults.

“Brands who specialize in kitchenware and food consumption products should seize this opportunity to showcase their relevance as Filipinos practice a hybrid work setup. They are not only relevant when preparing food to bring to the office as baon but preparing meals ahead at home for the coming week too,” shares Reena Llanillo, Associate PR Director at Vero Philippines.

“There is an opportunity to collaborate with emerging and established food content creators on TikTok as Filipinos look for more creative ways to cook their meals,” adds Llanillo.

Future-gazing through healthy eating

Post COVID-19, consumers in the Philippines list varying reasons for choosing to eat healthy. The top reason driving both Gen Z and Millennials is ‘long-term health benefits’ with ‘to be more physically fit’ following closely for both audience types.

‘More energy’ and ‘better mental health’ also rank high in terms of reasons for Filipinos to eat healthily.

‘More energy’ and ‘better mental health’ also rank high in terms of reasons for Filipinos to eat healthily.

In a report from HMTviii, mental well-being is the number one health trend influencing food and supplement selection across a range of continents. Many pieces of research have proven that food may improve people’s mood and well-being, making it a trending topic among consumers.

“All of us know that yes, it is our brain that processes what we think of and how we feel, but all too often we separate the notion of our mental health from how healthy we are and how we take care of our bodies. Our brains are literally in our bodies and our brains are only ever going to be as healthy as we let ourselves be. If we take our health, our nutrition, and our bodies for granted and we don’t take care of them with proper movement and nutrition, then we will never perform at 100% – body and brain.” says Julian Luis N. Agustin, MP, RPsy, Psychologist, In Touch Community Services.

CASE STUDY: Del Monte 

In recent years Del Monte has released a series of products that are fortified with additional vitamins, and minerals. For example, their 100% Pineapple Juice Bone SmartTM is fortified with calcium, containing twice the level of calcium found in a glass of milk. It is designed to provide the same benefit to lactose-intolerant consumers, pregnant women, or anyone who wants stronger bones.

Del Monte’s 100% Pineapple Juice Heart SmartTM is enhanced with ReducolTM, a natural combination of plant stanols and sterols, clinically proven to lower Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterolix.

“Filipinos are becoming smarter buyers as they start to focus on their health and wellness. More of us are realizing the many impacts of their food choices and consumption on their overall well-being. They have gone beyond concerning themselves with the superficial effects of food consumption. Everyone has their own picture of what physical health looks like, feels like and now, they’re more empowered to achieve it.

Filipino’s needs are becoming more sophisticated, and brands should investigate this deeper as they innovate in offering better and healthier options,” remarks Gella Gesultura, Associate Creative Director, Vero, Philippines.

CASE STUDY: Gatorade, PepsiCo 

In the Philippines, Gatorade is positioned as the ideal drink for athletes, gym-goers and sports enthusiasts. Its formula is backed up by 40 years of science and research. Gatorade often works with local and international sports stars and has also been involved in sponsoring local and international sports events, such as the UAAP and NCAA.

Gatorade’s social media content promotes exercise as a way of having a healthy mind and body.

“It is basically connecting all aspects of your being with everything happening in our country, it’s easy to get caught in the “chaos”.

A holistic lifestyle is having a sound mind, regular physical activity, balanced nutrition, and adequate rest that all contribute to your physical, mental, and emotional health. As much as possible, you should try to live your life with intention, clarity of values, and faith. It is best to do a lot of mindfulness practice and just be open to the fact that there’s always a bigger picture,” says Christian Garcia, Head Coach, CFCabalen.

“As Pinoys, we need to put fitness first in our lifestyle as it helps us achieve our daily tasks better and more efficiently. With the right diet and amount of exercise, we achieve not only physical well-being but also mental and spiritual well-being. This is what a holistic lifestyle truly is – having that mind-body balance to progress further in life,” adds Rj Samson, Marketing Manager, Evolution Wellness Holdings, PTE LTD (Celebrity Fitness).

Plant-based for health and hap-pea-ness

Post COVID-19, consumers are associating vegan or plant-based with eating healthy. 40% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials chose ‘plant-based and vegan’ as having a strong association with healthy eating.

This trend is amplified on social media, with influencers, and communities driving appetite for plant-based food products.

Manila Vegans

When Manila Vegan Facebook group began in 2014, only 70 people joined. The group now has 50.8K members, from vegans, vegan-curious, and vegetarians, to flexitarians nationwidex.

Adding to this social media buzz are Filipino influencers, who share recipes, lifestyle tips and products to help new and established vegans. Accounts like @Eat_Figs_Not_Pigs (165.2k TikTok followers), @Carissa Pureza (132.7k TikTok followers), @LVL1Vegan (41.5k TikTok followers), @Got to Be Leaves (15.3k Instagram followers), are paving the way in veganism, educating their followers on animal rights, the health-impact of being vegan and plant-based and easy-to-digest nutritional information.

We’ve also seen a rise in meat-free options in the Philippines. Veega, Wondermeat, Beyond Meat, Naked Foods by Cinty, Omnipork, Quorn, Unmeat, Alpha Foods, The Good Choices and The Good Seed are now all widely available in Filipino supermarkets.

Understanding macronutrients

Consumers are now realizing the importance of nutritional ingredients within their food and supplements. More recently, vitamins have become the go-to resource for boosting immunity and self-protection.

Our research shows that consumers are taking vitamins and supplements as part of their daily health rituals.

70% of Millennials and 60% of Gen Z say they take vitamins and supplements weekly, with 75.5% of Gen Z and 85% of Millennials using supplements to help boost immunity.

 With its health-boosting properties well publicized it makes sense that Filipinos view vitamin C as the most important macronutrient, with over 70% of Millennials and Gen Z noting this vitamin as a consideration.  

With its health-boosting properties well publicized it makes sense that Filipinos view vitamin C as the most important macronutrient, with over 70% of Millennials and Gen Z noting this vitamin as a consideration.

Authority figures and experts are no longer the only trusted source for customers. Social media, friends and families, and influencers are increasingly becoming trusted authorities for consumers to seek out information about healthy eating.    

Consumers are owning their health education

Authority figures and experts are no longer the only trusted source for customers. Social media, friends and families, and influencers are increasingly becoming trusted authorities for consumers to seek out information about healthy eating.

Dr. Jo Previte, Senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Queensland Business School said that: “What’s interesting is it’s not the authorities that are starting the conversation, it’s people like us that we can relate to — and relating has been part of the healthy eating movement.” With the rising demand of consumers, influencers also win in this category, as they are equipped with scientific-driven knowledge and information, yet they manage to stay relevant and authentic to their followersxi.

CASE STUDY: Berocca’s Supercharged Squad

Berocca’s Supercharged Squad is a community-based rewards membership scheme that invites members to take charge of their health and gives them the opportunity to join exercise classes and receive exclusive content. The campaign encourages members to share their experiences using Berocca on social media platforms using the hashtag #SuperChargedSquad, with influencers joining to amplify buzz.

“With all available tools and resources, consumers are more empowered to take charge and #manifest a healthy long life they’ll enjoy. There’s always a huge opportunity for brands to create platforms in enriching these communities by providing reliable information/tips in helping them achieve their #HealthGoals. There are several creative and innovative ways in mounting them,” Gella Gesultura, Associate Creative Director at Vero Philippines.

Conclusion

Despite rising inflation in the Philippines, seeking out healthy choices is still a priority. Consumers are choosing to reduce spending on unhealthy food, and instead buy fruits and vegetables.   

Healthy options win in the budget race

Despite rising inflation in the Philippines, seeking out healthy choices is still a priority. Filipino consumers are choosing to reduce spending on unhealthy food, and instead buy fruits and vegetables which help them in their health and wellness journey.

As Filipinos look for cheap, healthy products, brands can help consumers by providing messaging that helps them to understand healthy options do not have to take a lot of time to prepare or be expensive.

Holistic healthy eating

Consumers understand that exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, but brands should look to go further than this. They can expand on how nutritional content impacts consumers in a real way. Homing in on the emotional impact of macro-nutrients should be a priority when marketing products. Identifying whether an ingredient boosts energy, mood or happiness will help consumers understand why they should make healthier choices, and its impact on them.

Health evokes a myriad of connotations as there are multiple facets to living healthy — ranging from physiological to mental, emotional, and even relational.

To live a holistic healthy lifestyle speaks of one’s quality of life and overall well-being, typically a balance across the different facets that make one whole.

This could mean nourishing our bodies with the right food by eating or cooking with quality ingredients, discovering ways to decompress amidst day-to-day stresses, or choosing to protect our peace when necessary. Easier said than done for sure, but highly beneficial in the long run.” says Nicole Miller, Del Monte Kitchenomics Brand Lead.

“Green,” “organic,” and “clean” reverberate

In our research into which words consumers associate most strongly with healthy eating, the two terms which reached over 50% were “eating greens” and “organic food.”

The other options on our list were quite technical and would take consumers two or three steps to understand that they equate to a healthy diet. However, we are seeing a change in the way people perceive healthy eating. Eating ‘clean,’ ‘low sugar’ and ‘plant-based or vegan’ also scored high in our survey.

The sunset of complex, internationally sourced ingredients

The importance of simplified ingredient lists, and how and where they are sourced is a trend that is also on the rise amongst consumers. Natural ingredients that are locally sourced are favored over unrecognizable additives which have a negative impact on carbon footprint and global warming.  In terms of content, brands should develop assets that simplify ingredients and their preparation of them, as well as their benefits. This will help empower consumers to learn more about eating healthily and therefore, make better choices.

Turn up your connection with consumers via authentic influencer partnerships

When it comes to reaching audiences, brands need to make authentic connections. Capitalizing on consumers’ trust in their peers and influencers is a great way to do this. Influencers with a science or nutrition background will lend more authority to communications.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help your brand adapt to Filipinos’ evolving focus on health and wellness. Email us at manila@vero-asean.com or fill out our Contact Form.