Plant-Based Alternatives in Asia: Today and Beyond

February 2023

Plant-based alternatives are in emerging stages in Asia and set to gain traction. Companies must navigate the unique perception of meat and dairy in this region to introduce plant-based products that match consumer expectations of nutrition, taste and price. Foodservice plays a key role in Asia in generating consumer interest, while competition in the retail environment intensifies. Innovation and R&D are important to localise global efforts that will attract both flexitarians and vegetarians.

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This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

Consumption of plant-based in Asia is complex, given the perception of meat and soy

The wide availability of affordable soy drinks and mock meat across the region poses a challenge to the new generation of plant-based alternatives. In addition to having to show value over animal-based products, plant-based players must differentiate themselves from traditional (at times unbranded) products that are usually priced more affordably.

Fortification and ingredient diversity push a healthier positioning and variety

Health is the major driver for the consumption of plant-based alternatives; for example, in markets like Japan and South Korea, consumers consider plant-based diets beneficial for weight loss. Fortification is also essential to address nutrition needs across the region, addressing key health concerns, aided by a wider variety of ingredients in plant-based innovations.

Foodservice is a key channel for proliferation into the market

The foodservice channel is the go-to entry point for many players in Asia and has already shown some degree of success in markets like China and Singapore where non-soy dairy alternative options are becoming more common. Meat alternative players also partner with chefs and renowned operators to illustrate their products’ application to local dishes.

Ready meals, sauces and non-soy milk beverages help to drive plant-based interest

Given that meat is not the main component in most Asian dishes, plant-based sauces help to spread the application of plant-based across the plate. Ready meals will help mask beany aftertastes and cater to consumer demand for convenience, while non-soy milk alternatives are growing in popularity as premium beverage ingredients on the back of protein diversification.

China and Thailand among key markets to watch

Japan, South Korea, China and Singapore are observed to be leading Asian markets when it comes to plant-based innovation, with strong consumer perception of quality and variety in addition to the strength of local players. However, the rapidly growing consumer markets of China and selected Southeast Asian countries are key as consumers grow ability to spend.

Key findings
Asia’s unique history of protein alternatives raises benchmark for plant-based food
Asian plates are less meat-dominant, but this is changing
Despite growing meat demand, innovation and availability will grow alternatives
Milk is highly regarded in Asia, yet per capita sales are low
Western-influenced occasions are a potential pocket of growth for plant-based dairy
Emphasising protein over plant will show the value of the new generation of alternatives
Soy proteins dominate Asia Pacific as a key ingredient in plant-based
Ingredient players support dietary transformation through innovation
Plant-based must address current and future health concerns of Asians
Health may be worth the higher price, but affordability determines long-term success
Given the existing vegan/vegetarian market, plant-based labelling must be clear
Snapshot of the plant-based market in Asia
Despite dominance, soy milk growth is flat as an established Asian beverage
Non-soy plant-based milk expansion is led by new brands and premium positioning
Market limited by stickiness to fresh meat and tofu/tempeh in local cuisine
Local brands enable comparable prices
Innovations closer to Asian cuisine steer plant-based into more categories and markets
Ready meals allow negotiation of the preparation barrier and elevation of flavour
Asia’s appetite for chicken is both a boon and a bane
China: Steady progress for dairy alternatives, meat alternatives needs more time
China: Timeline of key events
“New” plant-based milks break through foodservice but face challenges in the retail channel
Oatly in China: Creative expansion following strong debut through foodservice
Plant-based meat in China awaits momentum; the next goal is return consumption
Starfield in China: Plays a big role in raising awareness due to vast market coverage
Future of plant-based in China driven by innovation and top-level push
Southeast Asia: Cuisine diversity is a key growth opportunity
Southeast Asia: Timeline of key events
Religion and variety of cuisines in the region create opportunities
Green Rebel in Indonesia: Pushing through channels, categories and markets
Protein diversification is key in innovation to suit Southeast Asian palates
UnMEAT in the Philippines: Localised innovation led by major regional players
China vs Southeast Asia: Differences in price and access, similar positioning and health needs
Strong demand for seafood and alternatives’ innovation progress poses potential
Innovation focus on hybridising meat across animal-based, plant-based and cell-cultured
Key recommendations to grow the plant-based pie in Asia
In developed Asia, relay unique health benefits and value
In emerging Asia, focus on variety, category diversification and availability
Reasons for consuming and not consuming plant-based dairy/meat alternatives

Staple Foods

NOTE: Couscous, polenta and quinoa are excluded from staple foods.

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