As US food producers expand their horizons beyond domestic distribution, gaining insight into international food trends will help them deliver the best products in developing regions. Southeast Asia continues to be a growth market across food categories, but its recent growth in the dairy industry may come as surprising. In cheese, specifically, consumption is expected to reach 1.6 million tons by 2020,1 and the snack industry in Indonesia alone has reached $990 million.2
A New Take on Tradition
Many Southeast Asian consumers seek out the comfort of traditional flavors when trying different foods. Variations by region offer an endless opportunity for diverse flavors from Thai green curry explorations to profiles reminiscent of Vietnamese caramelized fish or rice buns. With this in mind, food producers can work with ingredient partners to develop authentic and surprisingly accurate traditional flavor profiles. Even basic formulations for soy sauce and coconut milk can be created with added health benefits like reduced sodium and fat.
Tastes Created by Time
Among the more interesting food trends in Southeast Asia is a growing focus on products that were made slowly, with terms such as “slow-roasted” becoming popular on ingredient labels. The idea that time was spent creating the product has tremendous influence on the Southeast Asian market, and ingredient developers are quick to create flavor profiles that suggest that quality. Creating a slow-roasted flavor note, whether it be with peanuts or meat flavor profiles, can engage Southeast Asian food consumers the moment they read the package.
A Growing Demand for Dairy
Countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia show the greatest demand in dairy products and dairy flavors. Introducing these flavors into every type of food application expands the scope of the food offering beyond cheese and milk staples. Food producers can get innovative, offering cheese-infused snacks or dairy enhanced versions of traditional Southeast Asian ingredients. Imagine Thai rice with a buttery profile or udon noodles boosted with a hint of cheese flavor.
Clean Label Expectations
Like much of the rest of the world, Southeast Asia is shifting to a clean-label perspective. Consumers look for fewer artificial ingredients. This comes as vegan, gluten-free and other dietary trends impact the region. The expectation leads many ingredient developers to look at creative ways to meet these standards while still maintaining rich flavor.
With so much of the Southeast Asian food market unexplored, the opportunity for food manufacturers to turn research into flavorful products begins with the right ingredient partner. Celebrating regional niche cuisines and staying on track with Southeast Asian food trends all begins with an ingredient partner who can get the traditional flavor just right.