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The Next Big Business: Trends Influencing Southeast Asia’s Food Tech Landscape

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In a post-pandemic market, as consumers across Southeast Asia (SEA) are reassessing their priorities and habits, new trends have emerged, fundamentally reshaping the way we produce, package, and consume food. From plant-based meat substitutes to sustainable business practices and food tech innovations, the culinary scene is undergoing a transformation.

Let’s delve into some of the major changes and what they mean for the region’s food market. And discuss how businesses can take advantage of these trends by introducing a wide range of innovative and appealing products and services that cater to SEA’s diverse consumer base.

Lucrative Opportunity: Plant-Based Meat

Plant-based meat substitutes, once relegated to the fringes of dietary choices, are now poised to disrupt the region’s food tech landscape. The numbers speak for themselves. Revenue in the meat substitutes market is projected to soar to US$160.30 million by 2024, with a robust growth rate of 11.36% between 2024 and 2029, reveals data from Statista.

Globally, the market for meat substitutes was valued at US$18.78 billion in 2023 and is expected to skyrocket at a CAGR of 42.4% from 2024 to 2030, according to a report by Grand View Research.

The growing awareness among consumers regarding the health benefits of plant-based meat substitutes is driving their rapid adoption. Mock meat or meat

substitutes are typically crafted from plant-based ingredients such as soy protein, wheat gluten, legumes, mushrooms, and jackfruit. These products mimic the taste and texture of real meat while claiming healthier attributes like enhanced nutritive value, higher fiber content, reduced fat levels, and zero cholesterol.

The rising interest in alternative proteins is reflected in the funding landscape, with investors pouring US$562 million into companies in the Asia Pacific region in 2022, marking a 43% increase compared to 2021.

While plant-based meat substitutes are currently not widely available in the region, efforts to expand distribution channels and normalise their presence in fast-food outlets and delivery channels could propel them into the mainstream, unlocking the full potential of this burgeoning market in SEA. A report by Asia Research Engagement projects that by 2060, more than half of the protein produced in Southeast Asia and other Asia-Pacific countries will need to come from alternative sources like plant-based proteins.

Capitalising on Sustainability

Sustainability and ethical sourcing have emerged as key considerations in the food industry, transcending mere trends to become integral components of consumer consciousness. As individuals grow increasingly mindful of the environmental and social impacts of their food choices, businesses are compelled to respond with transparent and ethical practices.

In Southeast Asia, where agricultural sustainability is of vital concern, businesses have a unique opportunity to align with these shifting consumer preferences and carve out a competitive edge.

Thailand, for instance, has been at the forefront of spearheading initiatives to promote sustainable and ethical practices across industries. From government-led policies to innovative technologies. According to a December 2023 survey by Rakuten Insight, about 77% of Thai respondents expressed willingness to pay a premium for sustainable products, while approximately 62% of Thais reported adopting sustainable consumption practices in their product purchases.

By championing the farm-to-table concept and prioritising locally-sourced produce, restaurants can cater to consumers’ growing appetite for eco-friendly dining options. Embracing zero-waste cuisine and implementing energy-efficient practices further solidifies their commitment to sustainability.

Moreover, there has been a concerted effort to reduce plastic waste and adopt more sustainable packaging solutions. From biodegradable materials to reusable

containers, food companies are exploring innovative ways to minimise their ecological footprint.

Food Tech: Transforming Food Production and Delivery

The integration of technology is reshaping every aspect of the culinary landscape across Southeast Asia, from food production to delivery and customer interactions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being leveraged to optimise operations such as inventory management, supply chain coordination, and recipe development.

Moreover, modern kitchens equipped with the latest technology are enhancing efficiency, enabling chefs to work more effectively and deliver high-quality dishes to customers.

The Southeast Asia food service market is experiencing rapid growth, with its size estimated at US$192.43 billion in 2024 and projected to reach US$349.05 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 12.65% during the period under review. Among the various segments, cloud kitchens are expected to witness the fastest growth, with a projected CAGR of about 19% during the forecast period.

The increasing use of food delivery apps in countries like Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand is changing how people dine out. A report by Mordor Intelligence shows that more consumers are now choosing food delivery services over visiting physical restaurants.

According to Statista, the online food delivery market in Southeast Asia is forecasted to generate revenue of US$ 37.51 billion by 2024, with a projected user penetration rate of 20.4% during the same period.

As we’ve seen, recent years have brought about a notable shift in consumer attitudes toward food and health. However, the pandemic catalysed a surge of new food-tech trends that prioritise health, sustainability, and technology. This shift in consumer preferences opens up opportunities for businesses to succeed in Southeast Asia’s food tech market, where innovation and sustainability are closely intertwined.

Who is Thanit Apipatana:

Thanit Apipatana is a Bangkok-based entrepreneur, investor, and startup advisor with a keen interest in venture building, real estate, F&B, sports and philanthropy. Mr. Apipatana has advised and invested in companies in the region, including Singapore-based proptech startup Mogul.sg and Thai-based Life Below Labs. As a thought leader, Mr. Apipatana shares his insights on entrepreneurship, F&B, education, sports and the social sector.

 

The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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