The evolving Asian meat consumer and food trends

GreenFeed’s target consumers are women aged 25 to 45, who favor safe and healthy foods.

Asia is seeing a significant shift in food trends, as consumers become more affluent and demanding. Changing demographics and conscious consumption contribute to food choices, which will drive USD 2.4 trillion incremental food spending by 2030, writes PAYUNGSAK WIRIYABUNDITKUL.

Consumers will demand more from their food choices. They are demanding healthier, safer or more sustainable food, greater convenience, and ease of shopping, according to the Asia Food Challenge report.

The report identified six key trends among which were preference for fresh food, safe and traceable sources, alternative proteins and online shopping.

Adaptive strategies

In Vietnam, the new meat consumers are GenZ and millennials. They prefer shopping online or at modern retail. They would like to know the origin of the products and prefer foods that support health and the environment.

To cater to this demand, meat processing companies have made the changes. GreenFeed Vietnam is one of the first pig producers in Vietnam to complete the Feed-Farm-Food Plus (3F Plus) model that can provide traceability to all its pork and processed food.

“This integrated chain helps the company proactively control product quality as well,” said Van Anh Nguyen, Sustainability and Media Manager.

GreenFeed currently owns three food brands: G Kitchen, Mamachoice, and Wyn. “G Kitchen offers more than 100 products including chilled pork and a wide range of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products. Mamachoice offers fresh and affordable food. Wyn brings affordable processed foods to consumers across the country.”

GreenFeed’s target consumers are women aged 25-45, who favor safe and healthy foods. “We target moms with kids and moms with babies. G Kitchen focuses on cities, while Wyn targets rural and sub-urban areas in the Mekong Delta and Red River Delta. Mamachoice thrives in the Mekong Delta, Central Coastline, and Highlands,” explained Ms Van Anh.

GreenFeed has widened its reach to modern channels. “We built and maintained our digital and social presence through various online channels. We increased brand awareness through engaging content, strengthened brand trust through endorsement with doctors, nutrition experts, and build brand loyalty through testimonials, word-of-mouth and referrals,” said Ms Van Anh.

Behavior changes during pandemic

Closure of wet markets during the Covid lockdowns propelled the change in consumption habits and production options in Vietnam.  “Consumers switched to chilled and prepackaged meat,” said Nguyen Tri Cong, Chairman of Dong Nai Livestock Production Association.

Mr Cong explained that consumers became accustomed to buying at supermarkets and saw the benefits. Farmers would do well to pay attention and adapt to the change, he said.

“Though consumers still patronize wet markets, the number shopping at traditional markets is declining,” he said.

Rewin Hanrahan

Online channels and hygienic food products

In Indonesia, Rewin Hanrahan, Director of Malindo Food Delight said consumers now prefer hygienic and sustainable food options and greater convenience.

“The pandemic drove changes in demand for these products.  Hygiene and food safety are crucial, especially now,” he said.

Budhi Wibowo

Meanwhile, online meat purchasing increased rapidly. According to the Indonesia-Australia Partnership on Food Security in the Red Meat and Cattle Sector, customers purchase beef online to avoid going out. “Other reasons include good quality, promotion, information about the halal certification, and attractive prices,” it said.

Budhi Wibowo, Chairman of the Indonesian Seafood Products Processing and Marketing Association said consumers are accustomed to online shopping and opting for home-cooked meals.

Mahditya Putra Mahardhika

As of March 2021, Tokopedia sold 40,000 processed food products, compared to 24,000 in June 2020. “We encourage members to sell directly to end consumers,” Mr Wibowo said.

Mahditya Putra Mahardhika, Head of Marketing sub-brand of Wong Solo Group, Makan Ku Ready Meal said they offer hygienic instant foods in retort packs and without preservatives. These can be stored at room temperature for approximately 12 months.

“This innovation is part of our Makan Ku Emergency Series. It just has to be immersed in hot water and can be consumed while outdoors, or even in the event of natural disasters,” said Mr Mahardhika.

Sustainable production systems

In Thailand, more consumers value sustainable production systems. Wanich Wantawee, owner of WorTawee Farm which produces organic pork, said his clients support animal-friendly production systems and are willing to pay a premium.

The farm in Khon Kaen province raises 300 free-range pigs on organic feed. It is seeing growth for higher welfare pork. “High welfare and organic pork are niche products,” he said. 

Wanich Wantawee

The farm’s clients include high-income earners, urban consumers, hotels, restaurants, and organic shops. It sells its pork products in organic shops in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Hat Yai, Mr Wanich added.

Meanwhile, Gordon Butland, Director at G&S Agriconsultants said amid the pandemic, consumer focus on health has grown. “There has been an acceleration towards plant-based proteins,” he said. “It has taken up more shelf space but taste and prices remain major challenges.”

“About 10-12% of the total animal protein space, will be taken up by plant-based proteins,” Mr Butland said. “But plant-based proteins don’t compete directly with real meat and consumers will not change their whole diets.”

Euromonitor International’s Senior Analyst Aileen Supriyadi said there are different trends in shelf stable, chilled and frozen processed meat products for Malaysia.

Aileen Supriyadi

“In terms of packaged meat products, frozen processed meat products are benefiting from longer shelf life and the earlier movement restriction in Malaysia,” she explained.

In Singapore, despite consumers’ desire to lose weight, “our research found that many do not consider reducing their intake of processed food including processed meat, seafood and alternatives to meat as they offer convenience and are affordable.

Ms Supriyadi also said products that offer convenience like frozen processed meat and poultry including chicken nuggets are in demand and will continue to do so in the forecast period.

For Malaysia and Singapore, religious and clean labeling remain crucial, including Halal certification to gain consumer trust.

New middle class in Philippines

The Philippines’ changing middle class is composed of overseas Filipino workers and call center employees with above-average income, driving the uptrend in meat consumption.

Many households and consumers look for convenience when it comes to food. This has led to more ready-to-cook, ready-to-heat, and ready-to-eat foods. At the same time, the number of QSRs is growing.

However, convenience does not always translate to healthy food, an industry stakeholder said. “With about half our population 25 years old and below, online food ordering is going up, but when it comes to healthier options, it is not showing,” he added.

The pandemic has led to lower demand for meat and meat products and flattened what was a growing segment. Still, industry stakeholders believe this will pass once the pandemic is over.

Read more:
Taste, price and convenience attracts Asian consumers
Asian consumers concerned about food safety
Consumers push meat producers to adapt and innovate

Joint-Editor, Asian Meat Magazine and Meat Insider, Bangkok, Thailand. The African swine fever hitting the pig industry in Thailand as kept Payungsak busy, writing, ‘Support required for small-scale pig farms affected by ASF’ for the Pig Health Monitor.