Over half of Thais want to eat healthily but budgets create barriers

April 10, 2023
  • The COVID-19 outbreak has increased Thai consumers’ emphasis on healthy diets.
  • Eating more fruit and veg is a top focus.
  • More than five in ten intend to educate themselves on nutrition and cook more at home.
  • Affordability is a key barrier, particularly for less affluent, younger consumers.

Thai consumers are prioritizing healthy living through their dietary choices post-pandemic, according to global market intelligence firm Mintel’s latest research*. More than five in ten intend to educate themselves on nutrition and cook more often at home (52% and 51%, respectively). However, affordability remains a key barrier, particularly for less affluent, younger consumers.

Mintel’s research has also found that Thais’ motivations for healthy eating have shifted beyond prevention alone. Consumers are now driven more by other factors, including improving physical performance (38%) and mental wellbeing (28%). Less than one in five (17%) cites the prevention/cure of chronic diseases as a driver for making healthier choices.

While the report indicates a trend in Thai consumers taking great personal responsibility for ensuring their diets contribute to good health (e.g. self-learning about nutrition and cooking more often at home), the perceptions of what constitutes healthy eating are additive rather than restrictive. Seven in ten (70%) Thais say eating fruit and vegetables is an important habit for achieving good health, while less than three in ten (21%) say the same for cutting/limiting animal meat consumption.

Pimwadee (Sara) Aguilar, Associate Director of Food and Drink, Mintel Reports Thailand, said:

“Thai consumers’ health consciousness has accelerated following the pandemic. Increasingly, Thais are focusing on adding nutritious components (e.g. fruits/vegetables, food variety) to their diet instead of limiting certain choices (e.g. highly processed food, animal meat).

“Brands can support this consumers’ desire with plant-based products representing a significant opportunity with nearly a quarter of Thais (24%) having set a goal to switch from eating animal-based meat to a fully plant-based diet in the future, according to our research. Therefore, promoting plant-based meat and dairy substitutes as shortcuts to achieving this goal is a great example of maximising such opportunity.”

Despite most Thais’ recognition of the value of incorporating more fruit and vegetables into their daily diets, affordability remains a barrier. Amidst ongoing economic challenges, Thai consumers are prioritising budget and basic staples. This is particularly true for younger consumers; Mintel’s research shows that less than half (37%) of consumers under 24 with poor financial status say they can eat fruits and vegetables regularly.

“The life expectancy of Thais has risen, but there are still inequalities reflected in poor eating habits, nutritional gaps, and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). While the benefits of consuming a range of fruit and vegetables are generally well-understood, financial wellbeing strongly influences Thai consumers’ ability to add more to their regular diets. Our research indicates that this challenge is more prevalent in rural areas, where 48% of consumers eat fruits and vegetables regularly compared to 56% of urban dwellers. 

“The report highlights that brands need to do more to democratise healthy eating by making it affordable and convenient. Thailand produces an abundance of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are often more affordable and ideal for promoting to consumers as healthy, budget-friendly options,” Aguilar concluded.

Mintel Reports Thailand, Attitudes towards Healthy Eating, 2023 report is available here.

*1,500 Thai internet users aged 18+, December 2022

Additional research on Thai consumer attitudes toward healthy eating and interviews with the analyst are available upon request from the Mintel Press Office. For those interested in purchasing the full report, please visit the Mintel Store.

Pimwadee Aguilar
Pimwadee Aguilar

Pimwadee Aguilar is Associate Director, Mintel Food & Drink, based in Bangkok. She is responsible for managing Thai consumer reports and for providing insights and fresh analysis on Thailand’s food and beverage market.

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