Food preparation and enjoyment are socially driven concepts for young Asian consumers. Taste, freshness, and flavor are non-negotiable concepts, but so too are visual appeal and the various emotions that cuisines can stimulate.
Consequently, the influence of social networks and short video apps is evident in the branding, packaging, and promotion of culinary innovations. Across Asia, food producers, chefs, restaurateurs, hotels, and retailers carefully curate new menus, recipes, and dishes to drive engagement with social media fans and influencers.
This fascinating overlap between purpose-driven promotions and elements of experimentation is still developing. Imaginative new methods of marketing delicious cuisines across Asia are currently being prepared and many of these will enter the metaverse. Here are five factors to consider:
Challenging consumers with tastebud tests are a popular tactic. Young consumers are curious about flavors they have yet to try and eccentric taste combinations newly unveiled.
Inviting consumers to share their taste test experiences can spark vibrant online debates and elevate the profile of a pop-up or limited-edition food product.
Taste-testing is a tradition in Japan, where consumers embrace foods that contest their palate’s perceptions. A firm in Hokkaido recently launched what it claims is the spiciest ramen in the world. A tea brand introduced a terrine cake made with roasted seaweed, chocolate, and orange peel. Perhaps the ultimate test in a nation of seafood lovers is a new fish-free tuna, which is made from plant-based ingredients.
Tastebud testing is filtering across Southeast Asia, where consumers closely monitor Japan’s culinary crazes and are eager for food brands to challenge their palates.
Health and personal wellbeing are key themes in food product marketing. Illness prevention has long been aligned with diet and nutrition in Asian societies. The pandemic’s long lockdowns and strict containment measures encouraged consumers to eat more immune-boosting foods and ingredients.
As consumers of all ages try to optimize their dietary balance, purpose-driven campaigns focus on the quest to integrate food and fitness into daily lifestyles. These take several forms, some of which were highlighted in our previous article Five Reasons Why Asian Consumers are Craving Healthy Cuisines.
The surging appeal of plant-based meals and indulgences like ice cream is evident across Asia. More foods promote probiotic ingredients to boost digestive balance. Ingestible beauty brands promote formulas and drinks that enhance skin and hair health from the inside out.
“Flexitarian” is an emerging buzz phrase. Hybrid products, such as snack drinks made with fresh milk and plant-based ingredients like oats and macadamia paste, are marketed to consumers who mix and match their dietary balance of animal proteins and meat-free foods.
Food and photography are emotionally entwined for young social media fans. At any time of the day or night, consumers can be spotted framing impromptu food shots in coffee shops, restaurants, and street food markets to share on social media or short video apps.
Sometimes these photos focus on the meal, drink, and décor. Often, they feature the diner, a partner, friends, or even the chef accompanied by a short meme and plentiful emojis.
Tapping into this penchant for combining smartphone photography and dining experiences is a proven way to create user-generated content and online engagement. Food brands, restaurateurs, and hotels promoting their cuisines as lifestyle-led seek to inspire aspiration and interactivity, as these drive greater engagement on social media.
Mobile consumers seek out food-based content streamed via their smartphones. Short video apps are especially popular for inspiring food culture discoveries. This is encouraging TV and movie producers in China, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia to commission more long-form comedy dramas based on culinary themes specific to a city or region.
Gourmet-only film events are even being created. During the 2022 Lunar New Year holiday, the Japan Foundation Asia Center and the Tokyo International Film Festival jointly curated the CrossCut Asia online film festival. Streamed by foodie fans across Asia, the festival showed a selection of films from Southeast Asia with stories based on cooking and eating.
Food tourism was gaining momentum across Asia pre-pandemic and will be a vital driver of the travel recovery. Having been unable to travel for long periods, consumers want to escape to destinations that tempt their tastebuds.
Before reopening its borders, Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism produced a video campaign promoting the nation’s cuisines for international visitors. Taste Cambodia focuses on the provenance of key ingredients in favorite local dishes to showcase travel in different regions such as Phnom Penh and the temples of Angkor.
In recent years, Michelin restaurant guides have expanded across Asia, and are an essential part of the visitor experience for gourmet travelers. Restaurants, hotels, and street food vendors featured in Michelin guides for Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei expect substantial volumes of tourist diners throughout the year.
Although Vietnam does not yet have a Michelin guide, the Restaurant Association of Vietnam launched an interactive culinary map of the country. It invites travelers to snap photos, write reviews, and shoot videos while eating to build an online archive of regional and national dishes and delicacies.