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Unlocking Business Opportunities in Asia Pacific: Embracing Individualism and Self-Care

Tomomi Fujikawa Profile Picture
Tomomi Fujikawa Bio
Kemo Zhou Profile Picture
Kemo Zhou Bio

Globalisation and higher disposable incomes have shifted Asia Pacific consumers' priorities to a focus on the self, further exacerbated by COVID-19. This article explores three business opportunities, led by evolving individualism and the growing focus on self-care.

Asia Pacific consumers’ priorities are changing

Traditional values of prioritising the collective, respecting wider societal norms, and the importance of family still resonate strongly in Asia Pacific, especially in East Asia. Factors such as homogenous ethnicities and low rates of immigration play a role in this, with this region far less ethnically diverse than many Western countries.

The unprecedented challenges of prolonged lockdowns caused many consumers to question the validity of collective ideas and the concept of society over the individual

Source: Euromonitor International

In addition, Asia Pacific is experiencing rapid changes in household composition. In 2022, the share of single-person households in Asia Pacific was 17%, the second-lowest rate globally after the Middle East and Africa; however, Asia Pacific will see the fastest growth in single-person households globally, of 25%, by 2040.

Asia Pacific will see the fastest growth in single-person households globally, of 25%, by 2040

Source: Euromonitor International

One of the factors contributing to the increase in single-person households is a rise in the number of unmarried people. While marriage has traditionally been a key societal institution in East Asia, an increasing number of young people are positively embracing single life.

Business Opportunities in Asia Pacific Chart 1.svg

Homes, foods, and services tailored for singletons

The growth in single-person households is driving demand for smaller homes. By 2040, the growth in the number of apartments will greatly exceed that of houses in East Asian countries. This will require solutions tailored for solo use such as all-in-one appliances and space-saving and multipurpose furniture to enable comfortable living, even in confined spaces.

Business Opportunities in Asia Pacific Chart 2.svgCompared to families, single-person households are more likely to eat out or purchase ready meals than to cook for themselves. This is illustrated by the launch of Nisshin Foods Holding's "kanzen meshi" (perfect meal) in Japan, convenient nutritionally-balanced products that are attractive to those who live alone and who are less willing to spend time preparing nutritious dishes for one. Besides, manufacturers which target families, are required to adjust pack sizes and advertisements to appeal to single people.

Doing things alone is not traditionally common in collectivist Asian countries. However, this is gradually changing, especially given the solitude engendered by the pandemic. Services specifically targeted at solo travellers or solo eaters can match emerging demand.

A growing shift towards valuing emotional, mental, and holistic wellbeing

Consumers in Asia Pacific are redefining their relationship with alcohol. From the sober-curious, to consumers who are more intentional about drinking less, this shift has driven up demand for non/low alcohol beverages in Asia Pacific, with a strong spike in 2021 during the pandemic. 

Consumers re-evaluate their values and take proactive steps to redefine wellbeing in terms of drinking habits, stress release, and quality of sleep

Source: Euromonitor International

The impact of stress levels, particularly on the younger population, is growing more pronounced as boundaries between work and personal life become increasingly blurred. Increased stress levels also interfere with sleep quality; therefore, consumers are gravitating towards products that promote better sleep and natural substances, such as adaptogens and GABA, which help the body manage stress.

Consumers are also indulging in smaller splurges of affordable luxuries in response to high costs of living and inflationary pressures. The “candle effect” is one example, wherein small home décor items, such as scented candles and cushions, have increased in popularity. Lifestyle improvements and changing attitudes regarding living spaces are likely to push more consumers to beautify their homes.

Business Opportunities in Asia Pacific Chart 3.svg

Evolving perceptions of beauty in Asia Pacific

The rise of individualism and the awakening of self-awareness are reshaping beauty perceptions in Asia Pacific, especially among younger generations.

A more traditional Asian aesthetic, which prioritises outwardly-focused beauty, coexists with an emerging trend to individualism

Source: Euromonitor International 

This trend encourages body positivity and skin tone inclusivity, and a focus on inner beauty over appearance.

Business Opportunities in Asia Pacific Chart 4.svgFashion heavily influences the evolution of body aesthetics. Trends such as fitspiration are fighting against the skinny look in the Asia Pacific fashion market. The emergence of local sportswear brands, such as Maia Active from China and Mulawear from South Korea, indicates that fashion brands are increasingly aware of body positivity as a key concept for Asia Pacific consumers.

For the beauty industry, colour tone inclusivity is gaining traction in Asia Pacific. Although colour tone inclusivity still wrestles with the obsession with white skin, the acceptance of natural skin tones is gaining traction in Asian markets. China has seen increasing penetration of colour cosmetics with bold colours and shades, particularly popular among Gen Z.

Consumers are also adhering to a growing shift towards a more holistic approach to beauty. They increasingly associate beauty more closely with intrinsic values than extrinsic values, propelling the market potential of clean beauty and beauty supplements. Product development and marketing strategy will resonate with increasingly diverse perceptions of beauty.

For further insight, see the full report Asia Pacific Consumer Trends: How Self-love and Individuality are Taking Centre-stage


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