There is a need for better-for-you (BFY) food and drink products targeting children in Asia to help in tackling the region’s obesity crisis. In Malaysia, studies by the Nutrition Society of Malaysia revealed that 30% of children and teenagers aged 6-17 were either obese or overweight in 2016. Meanwhile in China, 23% of boys and 14% of girls under age 20 were obese or overweight in 2014, according to the World Food Program.

Asian consumers are seeking products that can help them and their children adopt healthier diets and eating patterns. They are also interested in avoiding ‘unhealthy’ ingredients. According to Mintel research, saturated fats and refined sugars are among the top food ingredients avoided by metro consumers in Thailand and Indonesia.

Likewise, Chinese parents are worried about products that come with high sugar content. Mintel’s Children’s Drinks China 2016 report found that 55% of parents aged 20-49 with children aged 4-12 agree that the sugar content is too high in most drinks specifically designed for children. There is huge potential for food and drink products featuring minus claims to target children in Asia.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), food and drink launches with low/no/reduced (L/N/R) sugar and L/N/R fat-related claims saw an increase between July 2012 and June 2017. However, this same time period saw Asia Pacific ranking as the region with the lowest penetration of L/N/R sugar and L/N/R fat claims. The increasing rate of childhood obesity in the region presents an opportunity to formulate and reposition products with L/N/R sugar and L/N/R fat claims to appeal to Asian parents.

Food and drink launches in Asia with L/N/R sugar or L/N/R fat claims

There has been significant focus on sugar globally in recent years. In the US, labelling regulations have been amended so that ‘added sugar’ will be listed on the nutritional facts panel of food and drink products. In the UK, ambitious new targets for sugar reduction have been announced. What’s more, sugar taxes have been implemented in Chile, Mexico and the Philippines. Meanwhile, China has introduced new dietary guidelines, in an attempt to control sugar, and other ingredients and nutrients.

As more countries enact food regulations and laws that focus on healthier diets for children, awareness of unhealthy ingredients, such as refined sugar and saturated fat, is likely to rise.

Based in Singapore, Michelle is a Global Food Science and Nutrition Analyst at Mintel. She specialises in food science and ingredients, with a focus on nutrition. Prior to Mintel, most of her career was in the field of nutrition and dietetics concentrating on food service, clinical nutrition, health and wellness program management, nutrition research and marketing. She’s a licensed Nutritionist-Dietitian in the Philippines and an Accredited Nutritionist in Singapore.

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