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Functional F&B: The taste of trends

Source:FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal

Date Published:8/12/2020 07:08:27 PM

Healthy treats in Southeast Asia – what consumers want and how ingredients manufacturers can deliver 

By TRACY FORTU, Marketing lead, Food Service APAC at FrieslandCampina Ingredients Food & Beverages


CONSUMERS are increasingly lured by the promise of health benefits in the indulgent products and treats they choose. Whether its vitamins added in, or sugar taken out, the appeal of eating your way to wellness shows no signs of waning. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened interest in tasty foods and beverages which bring incidental goodness. The challenge for manufacturers is to cater to this trend without compromising on enjoyment and a sense of indulgence.

 Listen to the data

We at FrieslandCampina Ingredients conduct ongoing research into what consumers are talking about online. What we are seeing in terms of trends here is that consumers want to ‘have their cake and eat it’. By this, we mean they want to enjoy tasty treats that do not compromise on indulgence. But at the same time, they want to feel good about snacking on something that is incidentally good for them.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, our own listening data showed health propositions in Asia-Pacific that were once the preserve of serious athletes – such as drinks with added protein - becoming mainstream.  

To cater to demand for indulgence with incidental goodness, we are now seeing products such as ice cream or coffee with added protein, for example.

It’s not just about proteins, though. Further listening research conducted recently showed the most talked-about topics currently in Asia are:

1.      1. sugar-free

2.      2. vegan/plant-based

3.      3. low-fat

4.      4. probiotics/prebiotics/protein/immunity

5.      5. fresh and natural 

These trends, especially the demand for healthier indulgence, are expected to persist post-pandemic.

Conscious indulgence as a concept

‘Conscious indulgence’ is a term we have coined to describe consumers who are increasingly aware of ingredients, nutritional value, and production methods, while at the same time expecting great taste. Thus, this trend is broader than consumers looking at incidental goodness, but also encompasses consumers looking at the origin and production of ingredients, e.g. how natural the ingredients are of where they come from.

For many people, eating and drinking are an expression of their lifestyle, beliefs, opinions, interests and mental, emotional, or economical state. Consumers no longer look simply at calorie intake, but also scrutinise sugar levels, fat levels and additives as well information about how ethically and sustainably their food is produced. And of course, all this data is far more readily available online, enabling consumers to make better informed choices.

For manufacturers, providing consumers with understandable labels that address health, ethical, sustainability, food safety and quality demands will be key. The role of storytelling will become an important aspect in maintaining consumer loyalty.

‘Conscious indulgence’ is a trend that is here to stay as healthier products migrate from the early market to the mainstream. In addressing the ‘conscious indulgence’ trend, however, manufacturers should remember that they are not talking to top-level athletes whose every aspect of diet is carefully managed. Flavour still comes first for the mass market, so if a product does not taste good, it won’t sell, no matter how packed with proteins it might be. For these consumers, the incidental goodness of a delicious treat comes as a welcome added bonus.

Iced strawberry green tea topped with probiotics foam (Photo courtesy: FrieslandCampina)

With COVID-19 comes choices

There are very few areas of life that have remained untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic, and food and drink choices are no exception. That said, the key macro trends that FrieslandCampina Ingredients identified in its first Trend Report for 2019/2020 continue to dominate, although some of these are manifesting themselves in different ways or have become more dominant in light of the pandemic. In addition to ‘conscious indulgence’, the trends that are here to stay are:


-      Experiences engaging all senses: foods and drinks that appeal to all the senses, not simply taste.

-      Personalise it yourself conveniently: a way to add a personal twist in an expression of personality and lifestyle.


From these two macro trends, we have now also identified the following micro trends:

Flavours from nature. We are seeing natural flavours such as rose, hibiscus and sakura, more often associated with the beauty industry, making their way into applications such as ice cream. Charcoal is another one: this natural ingredient is now being used to stunning effect in coffee.


Proximity to nature has become more of a focus during the pandemic, with people appreciating life’s little pleasures more. A rose (n)ice cream on a hot day – a deliciously indulgent rose-infused ice cream with added protein – ticks both the need for a treat, and the desire to boost health.

Small indulgences with a bonus. During the pandemic, consumers have naturally been looking for ways to boost their health and wellbeing. It’s become as much about added ingredients that are actively good for you as taking out things like sugar or fat. Recipes that cater to this trend include an iced strawberry green tea packed with juicy summer fruit and topped with a probiotic foam. Or a delicious tear ‘n’ share olive bread - perfect for family evenings, and rich in healthy mono-unsaturated fats and antioxidants.

Blend trend. The increased focus on reducing waste has become even more relevant during the pandemic. Consumers have become increasingly inventive in using ingredients in different ways rather than discarding them – browning bananas make for a deliciously moist loaf!

With eating out of the cards, consumers have at the same time been keen to recreate the dining out experience in the home. Personalisation thus combines with reduced waste. Baking a cake together using up store cupboard ingredients and finishing it off with an imaginative topping of your own creation scores on many levels: no waste, a personalised treat, and a way to keep children occupied!


Taste it first!

When catering to the healthier indulgence market, the key thing manufacturers need to remember is that no amount of added goodness will sell to mainstream consumers if they do not love the taste of what they’re eating or drinking. Any wellness benefits, although welcome, are an incidental bonus.

Every product concept or development project is driven by consumer demand, needs and desires. At FrieslandCampina Ingredients Food & Beverages, we therefore never tweak existing concepts simply to add a health benefit. As we have identified, taste is paramount whatever the nutritional value, so we have to get that right and develop a complete concept.


The challenge in any application is to develop the precise harmony of ingredients to achieve the desired flavour profile, in combination with the right functionality. It’s about getting the balance just right.


Functionality and performance are crucial aspects for manufacturers to consider. For consumers, it’s a given that their cappuccino will have a firm and stable foam, their slice of cake with be lightly aerated, or that the bakery cream in their pastry won’t collapse.

And if they want added protein in their ice cream or a gluten-free or vegan version of their favourite dessert, they trust manufacturers to deliver these added functionalities.

Once we’ve identified the consumer need, our expertise and experience come into play to develop a concept with ingredients that complement each other and take the end result to a new level. Innovative ideas that have come out of this approach include tear ‘n’ share bread with healthier fats topped with herbs, and matcha tea with dairy. The consumer acceptance for these healthier concepts is driven by the new combination of known and unknown ingredients.

FrieslandCampina Food & Beverages Ingredients supports manufacturers in achieving the characteristics consumers expect, with continuous investment in sensory research and applications expertise.

Versatility is a vital ingredient

With trends coming and going sometimes at an alarming pace, and each country in Asia having different taste preferences and product requirements, versatility of ingredients can help manufacturers maintain control over costs, and respond agilely to changes in the market.

Versatile creamers, for example, give manufacturers the flexibility they need to tailor products to regional expectations, whilst also enjoying economies of scale. Achieving the right mouthfeel and creaminess without overpowering the tea taste, or reaching the right level of milkiness without making the drink “cowy”, is no easy task, however, and requires extensive expertise. Many FrieslandCampina Ingredients products also boast characteristics such as compatibility with other ingredients, including many different toppings. Our innovation kitchens in Shanghai and Manila provide a collaborative space in which to refine recipes together.



Access the FrieslandCampina Trend Report 2019/2020 at



Marketing lead, Food Service APAC at

FrieslandCampina Ingredients Food & Beverages

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