The index, that tracked twenty food and beverage firms, aims to provide an indication of a company's presence in Asia.
"In terms of innovation, a crucial play in the F&B industry, western-origin brands performed generally better than their Asian competitors," found the report from GIA.
Set against the backdrop of a testing economic climate, confectionery makers that have the drive, and resources, to invest hard in innovation can potentially beat the downturn.
"As a market becomes more difficult, so innovation is increasingly necessary," Xavier Terlet, CEO of trend tracking agency XTC, told ConfectioneryNews.com at last year's SIAL food exhibition.
The GIA index, that focused on three dimensions – innovation, regional presence and revenue performance – claims that anglo-dutch firm Unilever performed "best in class" thanks to efforts to appoint chefs and food experts in 18 key markets to research and develop new products customised to the local needs and preferences.
Switzerland's Nestlé, with global revenues in the region of €71bn and annual spend on R&D almost €1bn in 2007, came in second in terms of innovation, "due to its research and development centres in China".
The index also confirmed the trend among top performers in the F&B industry, that included Cadbury Schweppes and PepsiCo, to customise their products to the local requirements, not only in terms of packaging but also in terms of taste and appearance.
"They have also been making strategic investments in the form of R&D centers and local manufacturing capabilities in the Asia Pacific region, particularly through the acquisition of local players," confirmed the report.
But another largely present player in Asia, Cadbury Schweppes, "has yet to improve on innovation and will start coming higher on the list," said Angela Quintero, Asia Pacific practice head for retail, consumer goods and services at GIA.
In terms of Asian confectionery firms, GIA found that Korean-Japanese Lotte Confectionery "seem to be struggling with their revenue performance and innovation", ranking last in the index.