Mintel’s expert analysts were at last month’s Food Ingredients show in China, showcasing the latest ingredient trends that are making a stir in the region. For those who missed it, here we outline three key takeaways from Mintel’s analyst presentations at the show…

High Protein: More than just a fad

No longer seen as just a fad, high protein diets have gained traction and interest in China. Indeed, a quarter of Chinese consumers are eating more protein compared to a year ago, slightly ahead of the US and double the UK and Germany. Consumers are fast recognising the benefits of including protein in their diets. In the US and UK key benefits recognised by consumers include feeling fuller for longer and building muscles, while 57% of Chinese consumers say that high protein food and drink gives them an energy burst.

In terms of product development, we have seen snacks and dairy become the largest categories for high protein food and drink launches globally. In China we can see dairy, and more specifically milk, as a high growth category. In China, high protein claims in dairy almost doubled from 2013 to 2014.

Areas of development to watch out for include plant protein such as pea protein and algae.  Algae in particular has emerged from the sea as a rich source of vegan protein, with Chinese consumers hugely ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the percentage who have eaten algae. Similarly, Chinese consumers are the most interested in trying insects as a source of protein, with over half saying that although they have not eaten it, they would be interested in trying it.

Fundamentally, however, when it comes to protein consumers take a simple approach, with two thirds of Chinese consumers saying they prefer to get their protein from foods and drinks that are naturally high in it, for example eggs, nuts and meats.

Anti-sugar campaigns change the way consumers use sugar

As the developed world becomes more focused on the negative effects of sugar on health, the focus will gain traction in developing markets as diabetes and obesity increase. Amidst the sugar scare, ‘natural’ based sweeteners are retaining a good reputation globally and there has been a drive for healthier sweeteners, putting palm sugar in the spotlight more.

As a result of changing views, new sugar alternatives have fast been gaining attention. The coconut craze and coconut palm sugars have put the spotlight on sweeteners like jaggery, with new global product launches featuring the ingredient. Monk fruit and manuka honey have similarly been used as healthy sweeteners in global product launches. Overall in China, low/no/ reduced sugar claims are in the top 5 ingredient related claims for new product launches, indicating the market potential for such products.

Focus on “good” fats

As sugar takes the spotlight, preoccupying health concerns – fat is able to reestablish its reputation. Although once demonised, some saturated fats are now believed to have protective properties. Those fats, now perceived as “good”, are set to make gains. Coconut oil, for example, is rapidly growing in popularity. The percentage of food and beverages that contain coconut oil launched globally have seen big increases year on year, culminating in 35% of global food and beverages launched in 2014 containing the product.

Other product launches have seen the use of rice bran oil, chia and sunflower oil, sesame oil and tea seed oil. And overall, 36% of Chinese consumers say that they now eat more sesame oil than they did previously.

Pam leads Mintel’s Food & Drink platform teams in Asia Pacific, specialising in Food Science, analysing global and region trends in ingredients, emerging science and technology, nutrition, health and wellness, food safety, regulation and labeling. She has extensive experience working in the food manufacturing and food ingredient industries in Oceania and throughout Asia and has held key technical and commercial positions in Australia, Thailand, and Singapore with multinational companies.

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