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Three Ways to Position Food’s Sustainability in Asia

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Sustainability is undoubtedly a core focus for many companies and brands in fulfilment of their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. However, sustainability might not be a core motivation amongst consumers when purchasing food and drinks. Thus, brands must seek to understand how to position their sustainability claims and communicate their commitments in ways that will attract consumers and resonate with their target market. This will help to generate emotional trust in a brand and, ultimately, loyalty.

Communicate benefits for the consumer, not just the planet

Inevitably, health is a key motivator when it comes to consumers’ food choices.

When asked what they look for in their food and beverage products, 45% of survey respondents in Asia prioritise health and nutrition

Source: Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey, fielded in February 2023

Given that consumers say they are more inclined towards healthy and nutritious products, there is value in driving sustainable products by aligning closely with health attributes and leveraging their benefits. This will allow greater exposure of sustainable claims and increase consumer understanding of labels that they might have linked to health instead of the environment. A good example is the organic claim, which has a strong health link in addition to environmental benefits.Three Ways to Position Food Chart 1.svg

The number of online SKUs in Asia with an organic claim label – the top ethical label in food – grew by 13% between 2021 and 2022 (per Euromonitor International’s Product Claims and Positioning).

Build on consumer awareness for sustainable packaging

Environmental activity continues to be linked to reducing plastic use. This is practised by consumers in many ways, such as using more reuseable packaging. This demand means the onus falls onto companies to reduce the use of plastics in their products or introduce more sustainable means of consumption, such as launching refillable initiatives.

In 2023, 55% of Asian respondents say reducing plastic use is their top environmental action

Source: Euromonitor’s Voice of the Consumer: Sustainability Survey, fielded in February 2023

An example is Nestlé Indonesia, which in early 2023 began the trial of a refillable vending machine at two retailers for its Milo and Koko Krunch cereal products, providing households with an alternative to the use of single-use plastic. Users of the vending machine bring their own containers. As an added value to the machines, consumers can also access product information such as nutritional values, shelf life and the ingredients list of the products via a QR code.

However, many initiatives have so far remained at the industry level, such as reducing plastics use with minimal impact to consumers. CP Meiji, for instance, replaced the label material of its 2-litre milk bottles in Thailand with a thinner plastic type as part of its sustainability efforts.

Ride trends like plant-based and alternative protein

Plant-based and alternative proteins are among the key approaches for companies to convey their sustainability offerings. The link to both environmental benefits and health and nutrition raises their perceived value to consumers. This is especially relevant for markets like China – developing new types of food such as alternative protein was written in its 14th Five-Year Plan, pointing towards a national interest in building a plant-based infrastructure and ecosystem with long-term results, as part of its overarching food security goals.

A key example is Singapore-based Ayam – among the top three brands in overall processed meat, seafood and alternatives to meat in Singapore – which launched yumeat in 2022. The brand is one of the many animal-based meat/seafood companies that has developed its own plant-based product with a clear health positioning and a history of strong sustainability initiatives; for instance, yumeat is produced in a factory that utilises renewable solar energy, and all cartons are made from recycled materials. However, these traits are not well communicated to consumers compared to its health benefits, signalling how sustainability claims could play a bigger role.

Read our article Plant-Based Products Boost Sustainability in Asia Pacific for more analysis on plant-based and sustainability.


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