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These Industry Experts Weigh In On Top Food & Beverage Trends For 2021

22 January 2021

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We sit down with industry experts, Emil Fazira, Senior Consultant, Food & Nutrition, Euromonitor International, Trilok Desai, Publisher and Editor, Ambrosia and SAP MEDIA WORLDWIDE LTD. and Daisy Li, Associate Director, Mintel China Food and Drink Sector, Mintel to find out what we can expect to trend in the food & beverage sector in 2021.

What do you think will be the top trend in 2021 in the food & beverage sector, and why?

Emil Fazira: Emphasis on value-focused products will be the top priority in Asia. The importance of affordability will cast a significant challenge on innovation, and manufacturers will have to clearly communicate the needs that the product addresses in order to demonstrate a clear value for money. At the same time, “revenge spending” will likely be a common behaviour in 2021, after a year of spending restrictions and cautiousness, causing consumers to crave indulgence and novelty within affordable limits. Exotic flavours, ingredients that promote holistic wellness, brands that support local communities and social awareness – these will be some of the methods that companies will utilise to emphasise value and product differentiators that consumers will seek. It is especially imperative for categories like ice cream and confectionery, whose performances in 2020 were slower than what it was expected pre-C19, according to Euromonitor International’s annual research and forecast.

Trilok Desai: There are several trends that will emerge in the year 2021 in the alcobev industry with companies, brands and consumers expecting normalcy to return to business.

From an industry side, we can expect premiumisation to continue in 2021 with more brands launching more premium products. With digital opening a new avenue in the year 2020, there will be a shift to digitisation in 2021 with more brands looking to capitalise and build on these new opportunities. Specific to India, we will see a shift to digitization with efforts made to computerise the processes and procedures of the excise departments. The excise policies of certain States also might witness flexibility in order to make us lost revenue from 2020.

From a consumer side, we will witness an increase in the sale of cocktails with more and more consumers added to the legal drinking age. Anticipating that bars and restaurants will reopen soon in 2021, their sales are also expected to be through the roof with more consumers looking to return to their regular ways.

Daisy Li: Instant noodles have a very unique positioning among the consumers. In order to adapt into the convenient needs from the consumer, the instant food market is growing again, although instant noodles is taking a large share. Instant ramen in the instant noodle space is doing especially well – particularly flavours like soy and miso. Instant ramen meant to be cooked in hot pot is doing well too.

Was there an emerging trend in the last few years that you thought would take off, but didn’t?

Emil Fazira: Meal kits! Meal kits gained a lot of buzz over the past few years and took off in a huge way in North America, Europe and Australasia. However, in Asia Pacific, success has been limited to South Korea and Japan, driven by unique local drivers. Price has been the main inhibitor for Asians to utilise meal kits, as fresh meal options with much cheaper prices are abundant and preferred. Manufacturers also expressed challenges in scalability, hence preventing prices of meal kits from lowering. The second barrier is Asian consumer attitudes towards food preparation – Asians lack the desire and habit to be involved in their food prep, and desire for experience leans more towards the stage of consumption, such as social media sharing and in-store dining. The widely accepted culture of having hired help at home also restricts the social experience of food preparation as a household. There was a bit of resurgence of this trend in 2020 given the slowdown of human traffic through foodservice, but I don’t think it will stick.

Finally, what are you looking forward to in 2021?

Emil Fazira: I’m personally looking forward to seeing purposeful innovation in Asia Pacific. Consumer values like sustainability, wellbeing, supply chain transparency and support for local communities have become more pertinent during the pandemic. Rising consumer awareness in Asia over the past several years has not matched with what they’re buying due to other priorities like price. Yet, in 2020, for instance, we witnessed plant-based ingredients trek its footprint across restaurant chains across Asia such as oat milk and egg/meat alternatives. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea all showed higher retail value growth rates for 2019-2020 compared to 2018-2019 for milk alternatives. Singapore was also the first country to approve lab-grown meat in December 2020. It would be interesting to see how these significant milestones will bear fruit for the industry or gain traction in 2021.

Trilok Desai: I am looking forward for businesses and the industry to return back to the usual. It has been a challenging year for everyone. But the important thing is to remain optimistic, be safe and prepare well, to stay ahead of the curve for when things return to normal. Although most manufacturers, brands and F&B industry globally have already created best processes to mitigate the current scenario. It is important to set a roadmap for the year ahead so that the transition is fast and smooth so that we don’t lose more time.