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How Covid-19 is impacting food-and drink-markets in Southeast Asia

The spread of Covid-19 is forcing Southeast Asian consumers to change their eating habits and embrace new shopping practices, says Mintel Apac food-and-drink analyst Tan Heng Hong.

Given today’s consumer climate, food and drink categories with strong immunity claims can drive home the importance of immunity to protect wary consumers, he says.

“Manufacturers of immunity-boosting food and drink products are actively promoting the importance of immunity to strengthen the body during the pandemic. These immunity-enhancing products include vitamin-fortified food and drinks, as well as spoonable yogurt, drinking/cultured yogurt, and nutritionally-complete drinks,” says Heng Hong.

According to the Mintel Global New Products Database, growing-up milk (1–4 years) (16 per cent), meal replacement drinks (6 per cent), and drinking yogurt/liquid cultured milk (6 per cent) make up the largest share of food and drink product launches in Southeast Asia that carried an immunity claim between March 2017 and February this year.

The research also confirmed more and more consumers are turning to the convenience of ordering their groceries online as people choose to stay indoors to minimise their exposure to Covid-19. As a result, online grocery vendors have witnessed a surge in orders.

This trend presents huge opportunities for grocery retailers to better engage with consumers through measures that bring added value and convenience, he says. 

“We’re also seeing growing interest in at-home cooking, which presents challenges and opportunities for brands looking to engage with those preparing and enjoying tasty meals at home.

“Online grocery players can maximise the current situation and gain new users by showcasing the benefits of shopping for groceries online, including having sufficient stock of popular items during the pandemic, safe handling and delivery of parcels, free delivery, promotions, and use of e-payments.”

There is evidence that consumers stuck at home are finding it challenging to prepare healthy meals that taste good. According to Mintel’s research, 72 per cent of consumers in Vietnam cook meals from scratch all or most of the time, and 52 per cent say it is difficult to prepare healthy food with great flavour. 

Heng Hong says as more consumers dine at home to avoid crowds, food manufacturers can step in to provide them with a more convenient, tasty and healthy meal solution.

“Even after the current situation calms down, given the scale of the outbreak, and depending on the duration of lockdown measures, the pandemic is likely to leave an indelible mark on consumer lifestyles. Key behaviours such as vigilance around immunity and hygiene will stick around for the long term, as will dependence on online grocery shopping and, possibly, even the habit of at-home cooking.”

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