Food & Beverage Asia Jun/Jul 2020

A growing global market Contrary to popular belief, it is not vegans who are driving the demand for plant- based products. Recent statistics show that flexitarians make up almost 50% of consumers globally. Once a staple in many people’s diets, cow’s milk is seeing increasing competition from the likes of soya, almond, oat and coconut milks – retail sales of cow’s milk declined by US$4.4 billion and $3.1 billion globally between 2014 and 2019. 1 While Western Europe and North America have shown a large uplift in plant-based alternative sales, Asia has not had such products, and those companies producing plant-based products are turning to innovative new approaches to attract the consumer’s attention. Innovation fuelling Asia’s interest Although Asia does not represent a large proportion of total dairy-free product sales, many plant-based alternatives derive from the region, which has a long history of tradition in this area and offers advanced manufacturing processes. China accounted for 44% of global retail sales of milk alternatives in 2019, and has the largest global market for yoghurt, which is valued at over $22 billion in 2019 1 . Hence, there is huge opportunity here for growth and innovation; not just in China, but in Asia-Pacific as a whole. Products like plant-based yoghurt and ice cream are a natural progression, and brands are already starting to develop innovative recipes to meet demand. China saw the first product launch of dairy-free yoghurt in 2019. Created by Nongfu Spring, a Chinese beverage company, the yoghurt was its first foray into the plant- based space, and is made of a combination of soybeans, nuts and coconuts. Despite the growing interest in plant- based products, some work is required to help boost their appeal. Manufacturers should look to ready-to-go or snackable Rising demand for dairy-free products in Asia Figure 1: Sales of dairy-free products by region how that Asia-Pacific has seen a much smaller growth than the likes of North America and Western Europe, where plant-based alternatives present a dynamic product development space 1 Consumers worldwide are growing ever more conscious of their food and beverage choices, with increasing numbers opting for plant-based products for a variety of reasons. While Asia has a tradition of milk alternatives, dairy-free products are yet to make a significant impact on many of its key food categories, but change is on the horizon. Supatra Chueaychum , Senior Marketing Executive for Synergy Flavours, writes on the region’s rising interest in dairy-free products, and explores the opportunities available for manufacturers looking to produce great tasting plant-based products. significant performance, as shown in Figure 1 below. Nut-based drinks, like walnut milk, and blended products containing a mix of cow’s milk with plant-based ingredients such as peanut milk, have largely contributed to sales in the region. The figures also include soya milk, which is a staple for many Asian consumers. There are several factors driving the demand for these products – health, environmental and animal welfare are all key reasons for consumers choosing to reduce their dairy intake. This is leading to dairy manufacturers having to diversify their offering to include plant-based INGREDIENTS 32 FOOD & BEVERAGE ASIA JUNE / JULY 2020