This is largely due to the increased availability of western multinational brands and international trends influencing product development in Asia, according to Olam Cocoa.
Charlene Zhu, head of ingredient development and innovation for Asia, told FoodNavigator-Asia: “We are seeing global trends starting to be replicated in Asia, such as health and reduced sugar. This reinforces the trend for darker chocolate flavours as manufacturers seek natural ingredients to meet demands of customers increasingly looking for low sugar and clean label products.”
According to Innova Market Research, snack food categories like sweets, biscuits and cookies accounted for 40% of new product developments in Asia last year.
Meanwhile Olam Cocoa Research showed that demand for cocoa powder in Asia was set to increase with a five-year CAGR projection of 8%.
Zhu said the region was on track to become the second largest consumer of cocoa ingredients in the world, primarily attributed to continued economic growth and an increase in disposable incomes, which have triggered a shift in lifestyles and eating habits.
“We can pinpoint the snacking trend to Asian millennials who are adopting more ‘on the go’ eating habits,” she said.
“As young professionals lead busier and faster-paced lifestyles, they are looking for quick ways to satisfy their hunger that do not require a lot of time and effort, and food manufacturers are responding accordingly to this trend.”
“Low sugar products are an area of growth as health concerns around sugar intake become more widely recognised in the region.”
Natural cocoa powder
To meet the demands of health and wellness trends, the firm created deZaan TrueDark (N11D) cocoa powder, the first natural dark, non-alkalised (or non-‘Dutched’) cocoa powder.
TrueDark can replace the alkalised powders typically found in bakery, biscuit, ice cream and dessert applications and consequently can be labelled as ‘cocoa’ on ingredient labels, rather than ‘cocoa processed with alkali’.
Olam Cocoa’s cocoa ingredients have a naturally strong flavour and colour impact, reducing the reliance on additives to enhance recipes.
In October this year, Olam Cocoa announced its sustainability initiative for the future of the cocoa sector, Cocoa Compass, with milestones set for 2020 and 2024. It aims to address pressing issues facing the sector including living incomes for farmers, child labour, education, deforestation, and the environment.
The firm had also recently acquired Indonesia’s largest cocoa processor, BT Cocoa to meet the food trends and needs of regional consumers.
In November, the firm announced its financial results where profit declined 1.5% in Q3 2019 (S$20.4 million/US$15 million), compared to Q3 2018 (S$20.7 million/US$15.2 million).
Its revenue remained relatively constant, with a 0.2% rise from S$8.31 billion (US$6.1 billion) in Q3 2019 to S$8.29 billion in the same period last year.