11 July 2024

Sustainability, plant-based and clean label food products have dominated the THAIFEX-ANUGA ASIA 2022, Thailand’s top food exhibition and one of the region’s largest.

No one was surprised to see that this year’s food trends unveiled at the fair focused on sustainability and health, a clear reflection of the impacts of the pandemic over the past two years.

“At the THAIFEX-ANUGA ASIA 2022, it has been obvious that food that places importance on sustainability in term of products and packaging, as well as plant-based food and clean label products are growing very fast,” said Mathias Khepper, managing director of KOELNMESSE Thailand.

Khepper, who is in charge of exhibition space, added the foreign exhibitors welcomed the return of THAIFEX after a oneyear pause due to COVID, with the number of foreign booths increasing twofold for a total of 815 booths on about 11,600 square metres. As for the big trends this year, it was evident that the trending 3 product groups dominated the exhibition space as their booths accounted for 20 percent of the total exhibition space.

Booth displays a company’s focus on sustainability. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

In addition to the booths that clearly identify their products and businesses with the 3 trends, there were others whose products are geared towards sustainability, plant-based or clean label.

Both small and large companies showcased plant-based food. Existing companies have launched and extended their products and it was pleasing to see a number of recently established companies entering the market. Among them is Vudhichai Group, whose businesses include construction, property, healthcare, and food, which has just set up Absolute Plant to penetrate the lucrative plant-based industry.

V Foods (Thailand) Co, the manufacturer of food and beverages owned by former Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhincontinues to spread its wings with the launch of another 7 products in the plant-based line at the fair. “This market has been growing fast over the last two years. Luckily we started before many others because the market is now very competitive,” Apirak told Thai PBS World.

Plant-based food grows rapidly. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

The fierce competition has prompted many food producers to further develop products. More Foods Innotech – producer of “More Meat” plant-based meat has improved their plantbased protein product by reducing food additives while exploring new raw materials to improve the texture of the product.

Thailand is known for its abundance when it comes to raw materials to produce plant-based products and industry experts recognize Thailand’s potential to be one of the world’s largest plant-based food producers.

SET-listed Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) also included plantbased foods as one of its five new trends for the next decade at THAIFEX-ANUGA ASIA 2022.  Anat Julintron, CPF’s executive vice-president of international trade & business development, said that as a food tech company, the firm’s Food for the next decade scheme has the goal of feeding 10 billion consumers with safe, nutritious and sustainable food by 2050.

“Our plant-based meat, a sustainable product marketed as Meat Zero, is the food of the future an alternative meat that is as delicious as real meat,” said Anat.

He claims that Meat Zero is the best-selling plant-based meat brand in Thailand. The shift away from animal protein isn’t a fad but rather a global phenomenon. Plant-based meat and dairy substitutes will improve and proliferate. In Thailand, the plant-based market has grown dramatically thanks to a surge in the popularity of vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian lifestyles. The percentage of Thais who don’t eat meat increased from 4 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2017, according to Siam Commercial Bank’s Economic Intelligence Centre.

Foreign booths at the fair. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

Apart from the health concerns, many consumers have turned to plant-based protein to do their part in fighting global warming. A  study conducted by the University of Oxford has found that a switch towards plant-based diets is vital to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and eating a vegan diet could reduce our carbon footprint by 73%.

Clean label tops priority among health-conscious group

CEO of Blue Elephant International Group Kim Steppe said that the company, which sells food ingredients and ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products under Blue Elephant brand, had adjusted their packaging to one that is more environmentally friendly. One need only look at the new packaging of its curry paste sold around the globe, which clearly states “More Eco Friendly Packaging”.

Speaking at the company’s booth at the event, Kim said the company has also developed its products to respond to the consumer’s changing needs – both products and packaging. In terms of products, they make a curry paste that is good for all diet preferences including vegan, kosher and non-gluten. The clean label gives all the information. As for the labels, the company is moving toward the clean label trend and being honest by giving all necessary information.

Clean label food can do well in global market. (Photo by Veena Thoopkrajae)

Blue Elephant has also have moved toward ingredients form natural sources for its products. For example, its founder Chef Nooror Somany Steppe has successfully used tamarind paste instead of an acid to preserve the curry paste.

The clean label trend is growing thanks to the health-conscious group. It is born from people who prefer organic, whole food and other natural ingredients over processed food and thus pay more attention to the details on food labels.  

Globally, the clean label is projected to expand up to 10% per year. The Thai Health Promotion Foundation refers to a survey which reveals 84 percent of Thai people prefer non-chemical food and 82 percent prefer clean-label food that is all-natural and has no chemicals or food additives.

The top trends of this year are interrelated and are giving hope that the world can cope with the deteriorating environment especially the global warming crisis and the pandemic. All three clearly follow the path toward the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals.

By Veena Thoopkrajae