By Agatha Wong
Authentic local experiences
With over 650 million people living across 11 countries, South East Asia promises tantalising business opportunities when it comes to product development. From on-trend flavours such as ube from the Philippines currently taking social media by storm, to spices such as turmeric featuring as a functional ingredient, manufacturers can play with the region’s diverse landscape to create delicious products.
And yet, ensnaring the discerning consumer is not longer simply about taste – with rising prices, climate change, and sustainability on the table, food producers should also bear in mind external factors that could test their product’s longevity on the market. Indeed, besides attuning their latest releases to the trendiest flavours and formats, it also important for them to understand other influencing factors that will keep consumers coming back for more.
To begin with, food producers should keep in mind the region’s unique culinary preferences in order to develop products that appeal to local taste. At Fi Asia Thailand 2023, Kerry was present to demonstrate solutions for the industry, and how they are catered to the needs of this region.
“South East Asia is such an exciting region for food and each country has its own unique cuisine, favourite dishes and savoury and sweet taste profiles. Manufacturers need to avoid the temptation to treat South East Asia as one – it’s critical to understand local consumer preferences and deliver products that meet local needs. We invest in in-depth consumer and sensory work to really understand the unique tonalities and nuances in taste in each country, in order to consistently develop products that delight consumers,” explained Ronan Moloney, vice-president of strategy and commercial enablement at Kerry APMEA.
He further shared: “It can be hard to identify what authentic flavour is; take Indonesian fried rice for instance, it can vary from region to province to cities, among between restaurants, it can be very specific as taste is personal, so the big challenge to brands is the ability to give consumers authenticity in flavours. And here at Kerry, we can help our customers bring to life the local taste in an authentic manner, shining a light on regional specialities.”
However, food producers are poised to face another challenge in creating region-specific products. Besides calling for authentic local flavours, consumers in South East Asia are also, as with the rest of the world, pivoting to health and wellness as a top priority. With rising awareness on chronic health conditions – with 90 million of adults living with diabetes in the region, and countries such as Singapore with the highest incidences of kidney failure alongside Thailand and Indonesia – there is has been an increasing emphasis on low-sodium and reduced sugar products.
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