Food cultures are evolving with an elevated focus on safety, quality, and wellness. Timeless well-being philosophies which dovetail ingredients and preparation methods with physical and mental health endure. Overlaying these are modern climatic challenges to food security, such as drought and floods. In response, farming is becoming data-driven and automated.
Long border closures during the pandemic raised concerns about regional food chains during times of crisis. Economic nationalism is causing food staples to be blocked from export. Against this backdrop, consumers are buying more locally cultivated foods, while becoming alert to issues of food safety and the risks of bacteria, pesticides, and pathogens.
As consumer attitudes towards food continue to shift, here are five factors to consider.
Advances in food science improve the speed and accuracy of safety testing. This protects consumers from harmful bacteria and prevents billions of tonnes of food wastage.
Researchers at Osaka University in Japan are harnessing the electromagnetic properties of tetrazolium salts to identify bacteria in food. This could enable products to be safely tested at farms and factories before distribution and pre-empt food poisoning among consumers.
At Deakin CASS Food Research Center in Australia, a prototype antimicrobial food packaging is made from native essential oils, lemon myrtle, and mountain pepper. Tests show it can kill or inhibit bacteria and funghi growth, increase product life, and reduce illness.
Asian shoppers are cautious about the quality of ingredients they consume. Concerns about food safety frequently emerge, often evoking governmental interventions.
China, Hong Kong, and South Korea stopped seafood imports from Japan after it began releasing treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. Tourists from these places are proving wary about eating Japan’s world-famous seafood cuisines.
In Vietnam, the WHO highlighted unverified claims by infant milk brands about the health benefits for young babies, such as bone strength. These promised benefits encouraged consumers to switch to processed formula rather than natural breast milk. Baby formula remains a sensitive issue in Asia since the tainted milk scandal in China in 2008.
Asia’s Slow Food movement is gaining momentum. Supermarket and online shoppers prioritise locally farmed foods offering enhanced freshness and lower transport emissions.
Singapore-based Jungle Kitchen’s vegan meals are made from tropical fruits, like jackfruit, which is rich in vitamins and dietary fibre. It promotes traditional and contemporary preparation methods using ingredients native to Southeast and South Asia.
Localism is also going mobile. In China, Ambrosial produces a Regional Food Festival livestream series. Each live show spotlights a city, such as Yanji or Chengdu, and presents its unique foods in the context of culture, geography, and locally farmed ingredients.
Innovations in agricultural technology, gene-editing, and bio-farming raise safety questions among consumers. Bridging the knowledge gap can make science-enhanced foods more appealing, scalable and credible.
A survey by Plant & Food Research showed only 43% of shoppers in Australia and New Zealand consider buying gene-edited foods. Respondents cited a lack of information about gene-editing and genetic modification (GMO), and the safety of eating such foods.
The safety of GMO foods is a hot topic in South Korea. The Ministry of Food & Drug Safety (MFDS) has published a report for public consultation on GMO soybean, corn, and canola. It reviewed applications to cultivate these crops and confirmed they are free from “toxicity, allergenicity or other food safety issues,” but public opinion is divided.
Asian consumers are embracing gut health. More brands are producing foods containing prebiotics and probiotics or a low-glycaemic index to help people manage their diets and enhance daily well-being.
Chinese food store Bcareu promotes three healthy daily meals for diabetes patients and people seeking to control their sugar intake. Its certified low-GI staple foods and snacks help customers with strict dietary requirements to enjoy a broader range of tastes and flavours.
Japanese consumers are discerning about functional foods, and demand is growing for prebiotic fibre. DKSH partnered with Beneo to promote its Orafti Inulin products, which are derived from chicory root. The health benefits of prebiotics include improved digestive health, a lower risk of diabetes and enhanced weight management.