Enjoy a 10% discount when you use the code EQLYSEP23 at checkout from the 20th to the 30th of September 2023

Food and Nutrition Consumers are engaging with food and nutrition like never before. Our in-depth analysis examines the most important implications across the industry, providing market intelligence, original thinking and key insights.

Functional Health in Asia: Driving Value in Food Innovation

Emil Fazira Profile Picture
Emil Fazira Bio

Asian consumers define health in a number of different ways, spread across both physical and mental wellbeing. Some markets are more skewed towards one type than another; Thais’ top three definitions of health are mental wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, and getting enough sleep, while South Koreans define healthiness as the absence of disease, avoiding illness, and having a healthy immune system.Functional Health Chart 1.svg

The diversity of health priorities highlights opportunities across a broad spectrum, giving food companies the potential to look into various functional ingredients suited to individual markets.

Immune support: Pre/probiotics move beyond gut health

Immune support food and beverages, which totalled USD16.8 billion in Asia Pacific in 2022, is the largest type of health benefit. Yet, its penetration into categories has room for improvement – the highest across all packaged food in the region in 2022 came from baby food.

12% of Asia Pacific’s baby food market is positioned for immune health support

Source: Euromonitor International Health and Wellness

Dairy categories like yoghurt and sour milk products, powder milk and flavoured milk drinks are among the top 10 categories with sizable immunity boosting claims. This is partly due to strong nutritional reputations, but also due to the rise of probiotics during the pandemic as an ingredient beneficial to gut health and immunity. In fact, the market size of yoghurt positioned for digestive/gut health in Asia Pacific (USD560 million) is greater than that for immune support (USD515 million) in 2022, highlighting the ubiquity of probiotics as an ingredient in the region.Functional Health Chart 2.svg

Mental balance and sleep: Tea flavours and dark cacao

Tea has traditionally been perceived as a beverage that can aid in relaxation and sleep due to ingredients such as chamomile, ashwagandha and ginger. Flavours inspired by tea have thus been borrowed for packaged food innovation for mood enhancing positioning. Indonesia’s Greenfields, for instance, launched a series of flavoured milk drink SKUs in June 2023 with flavours like Vanilla Chamomile Milk (“No more stressful days!”) and Honey Earl Grey Milk Tea (“Extra mood booster is coming!”) as part of its flavoured milk tea portfolio. Besides tea, dark cacao, known to promote feel-good emotions, has also been a focus. Guylian announced in July 2023 that it was cutting out some SKUs in Asia Pacific, focusing on dark chocolate variants.

China is expected to experience the strongest increase in Asia Pacific in the retail value share of  plain dark chocolate tablets (chocolate confectionery) between 2019 and 2023 – a gain of 3.5 percentage points equal to USD23 million, according to Euromonitor International Snacks.

Overall, however, there is a lack of functional ingredients being utilised to provide consumers with mental and emotional wellbeing benefits, opening up an area of opportunity. Initial progress has been made by Ezaki Glico, which improved on its existing Mental Balance Chocolate in 2019 with an “aids sleep” positioning through the use of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). In 2022, it added a new SKU – a bitter chocolate flavour.Functional Health Chart 3.svg

Identify growth markets and channels

In order to make an impact, producers should look into the growth potential of nascent health benefits such as mental balance and mood enhancement in markets like China and Japan, where a majority of survey respondents claim that mental wellbeing defines health. Products that address physical health and wellbeing (such as energy and endurance) may have stronger demand in markets like Indonesia, while the use of ingredients that overlap with other health benefits adds to the multifunctionality of the product, such as skin health, etc.

The application and development of well-known functional ingredients also has room for improvement. For example, pre- and probiotics hold massive potential, while there is intense research and development ongoing for synbiotics and postbiotics. Besides dairy products, confectionery and baked goods are expected to have optimistic growth in future as a vehicle for probiotics fortification.

Probiotics-fortified baked goods in Asia Pacific are expected to grow by a 9% CAGR between 2022 and 2027 (in retail value terms), outpacing yoghurt and sour milk products at 5%

Source: Euromonitor International Health and Wellness

Lastly, increasing the number of opportunities for consumers to gain understanding of specific positioning and ingredients is essential. Not only is extensive retail presence important, but so is collaboration with retail partners to communicate the value of such products.


Interested in more insights? Subscribe to our content

Explore More

Shop Our Reports

A Clean Evolution: Redefining Value and Priorities in Disposable Wet Wipes

The disposable wet wipes space is undergoing a clean evolution, as approaches to cleaning evolve against the backdrop of inflation, urbanisation and…

View Report

Navigating Inflation: How to Win in Private Label - Lessons from France, Germany and the UK

Private label – retailers’ alternatives to brands – tend to benefit from inflation. However, despite record inflation in France, Germany and the UK, the market…

View Report

Revisiting the Fundamentals of Snackification

Eating occasions and snacking patterns have been altered. With rising concern for health, consumers are seeking out nutritionally qualified snacks with more…

View Report
Passport Our premier global market research database with detailed data and analysis on industries, companies, economies and consumers. Track existing and future opportunities to support critical decision-making across all functions within your organisation Learn More