Health concerns driving Thais to consume more functional food and drinks

Health is a top priority for 84% of Thai consumers, which is why functional food and drink products are now becoming more popular. According to findings from Mintel’s latest research, consumers’ health status, personal interests and life priorities continuously change with age. The demanding lifestyles of Thais combined with early signs of ageing often trigger middle-aged consumers to become more concerned about their health and nutrition. This trend results in increased interest in functional food or drinks.
Mintel said health matters register actively among consumers aged between 25-44. The firm found out that among millennials aged between 25-34, over a quarter (28%) of this segment rely on products with added nutritional benefits to balance out their indulgence intake. Also, 34% of consumers in the same cohort seek out the latest information on health and nutrition.
“The degree to which consumers choose to engage with functional food and drink products varies depending on life stage and lifestyles,” said Pimwadee Aguilar, associate director for Food & Drink, at Mintel. “The increase in health awareness often takes place after the first signs of health decline. Simple signs such as fine facial lines usually appear at around the age of 25. It is at this stage when consumers are motivated to review their diet and attempt to improve it either through conventional foods, supplementation or medicine."

Performance enhancement, key target benefit
Mintel said Thai consumers are looking for ways to improve performance and delay the degeneration of health. Their research reveals the top three benefits consumers look for in functional food and drink products. These are brain health (62%), eye health (55%) and skin health (53%) and that boost energy. However, 53% of consumers prefer getting nutrients through regular food and drink rather than through those with fortifications. This preference increases to 66%, among consumers aged 45 and above. Mintel said this trend could become an opportunity for functional food and drink brands.
In Thailand, 'naturally functional' ingredients or products are perceived to be better than 'added nutrition' among consumers. Brands can appeal to consumers, mainly to adults. Food and drink products with functional benefits from natural sources convey 'healthiness' more strongly than those with synthetic ingredients, said Aguilar. Product formats such as beverage powders and yoghurts which can easily fit into any meal occasions. It presents an opportunity to penetrate exceptionally well with consumers as they contain 'familiar, real food' qualities, she added.
On the other hand, energy drinks and those with electrolytes are consumed less, mostly due to their ‘overly processed’ image. “To win consumer acceptance, manufacturers need to develop products which provide functional benefits, yet maintain ‘real food’ look and taste,” Aguilar concluded. (Image from Pixabay)

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