Dr Pisit Dhamvithee, assistant professor of the Product Development department of Kasetsart University and head of the Product Innovation Research Unit (PIRUN), citing Innova Market Insights, shared that many of these current trends are interconnected and revolve around the emerging values of trust, self-care, individuality and sustainability.
More holistic motivations
The first trend Dr Pisit pointed out is “mindful choices”. He said, according to market intelligence agency Mintel, new food product claims of being natural and ethical have been low in the past 10 years. However, in more recent times, there has been almost a 100% increase in natural, ethical or environmental claims in food and drink products that have been launched.
One example he gave is a premium ice cream with “farm fresh” traceability that can be tracked through the whole value chain.
The second, related, trend is “lighter enjoyment”. Because people care about health concerns, low alcohol content is on trend together with the use of local, natural or ethical ingredients in these higher-value products. An example is a 0% calories Nestea beverage.
The next trend is “positively processed”. People are now not just concerned about processing and chemicals that go into food, but what improves the freshness of the product.
More ‘raw’ or ‘old-processed’ food products are hitting food shelves. New product launches with claims such as cold-brewed or cold-pressed have been steadily increasing in recent years.
Linked to this is how some perceive that high temperatures may destroy the aroma or flavours.
The fourth trend is “going full circle”, where consumer awareness and concern encompassing having an eco-friendly product, eco-friendly packaging and reducing or eliminating food waste, together, are on the rise.
Referring to recent Mintel data, he pointed out that variants of eco-friendly products as well as products with eco-friendly packaging, especially, have spiked in recent times.
The fifth trend indicates that food and beverage launches featuring coffee and tea flavours have significantly risen from 2010 to 2016. One example of this is the launch of Coca-Cola Coffee Plus in certain Asia-Pacific markets late last year.
The new drink from the beverage giant has 50% more caffeine and 50% less calories, and combines Coke’s familiar taste with mild sweetness and a coffee aroma.
From a particular flavour or aroma, the next sensory trend goes to attractive colours.
“In 2018, the sound, feel and satisfaction that colour provides will become more important,” said Dr Pisit.
Changing eating habits
Another trend is “dining out, in” every day. This refers to 'restaurant quality' convenience packaged meals that can be consumed at home.
Dr Pisit said this is now the lifestyle of most of the people who live in the city and this is an opportunity for the food industry to focus more on healthier and high-quality convenience options.
Yet another change in eating habits is the evolution of snacking to the mini-meal.
Meat snacks have been re-positioned as mini meals, he added, and said alternative sources of protein would grow in the next five years.
Meanwhile, the “ocean garden” trend refers to the bounty of ingredients from the sea that is now being incorporated into food products across many categories. For example, there is a paste that contains a type of algae or seaweed to enhance the umami flavour.
Last but not least, the “bountiful choice” trend not only refers to market segmentation but addresses the diversification of consumers to focus on product differentiation.
This product trend aims to meet various customer demands about flavours, functions, nutrition and visualisation. It also includes food product portfolio diversification in terms of flavour, function and packaging.
Whether in Thailand or the rest of the world, he suggested that these 10 trends are worth looking into as food moves towards the “next generation”.