Malaysia has the highest prevalence of obese and overweight people in ASEAN according to a recent Economic Intelligence Unit report. However, the tide appears to be changing with consumers demanding healthier, more nutritious and convenient food.
These were some of the key findings that came out of an expert industry panel discussion today that explored the consumer trends changing Malaysia’s eating habits.
The panel was led by Fonterra Brands Malaysia’s New Product Development, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Director, Megawati Suzari who was joined by Kantar Worldpanel’s Regional Account Director, Karen Leong, and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef James Won who is the owner of Enfin, an award-winning French restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.
Ms Karen explained that in Malaysia and across the region there is a growing focus on health and wellbeing, which is changing consumers’ relationship with food, while technology is helping make everything more accessible.
“Across the region we are seeing a trend towards healthier eating as consumers recognise the nutritional benefit and impact food has on their wellbeing. With an expanding middle class and rising disposable incomes across Asia, there is now a wider base of consumers willing to spend on products that support their overall health.
“At the same time, consumers are increasingly time-poor and are seeking convenient options that will allow them to maintain their health on the go. From an industry perspective, this means consumers want healthier snacks and beverages in a ready-to-eat or simplified cooking format,” Ms Karen.
Ms Megawati said in her role at Fonterra Brands Malaysia as head of new product development it is crucial to understand these broader macro trends before drilling deeper into what this means from a dairy innovation perspective.
“We’re lucky at Fonterra because we work with dairy as our core ingredient – it is truly a superior ingredient that allows us to deliver consumers high-quality nutrition through a variety of products, and consumers are increasingly recognising the important role dairy plays in a balanced diet. “As a consumer-focused business we need to understand the impact of these bigger trends, but at a dairy category level there are further drivers we are focused on to ensure we connect the dots all the way through, so that we can deliver something consumers will want to eat or drink.”
Elaborating further Ms Megawati explained that changing taste preferences is a key consideration when looking at product innovation.
“Consumers today want more whole and natural foods, which are less processed and have less additives. We are really focused on building a portfolio of products without added sugar or artificial sweeteners and using natural colouring and flavouring to bring out the real taste of each product,” she said.
The drive by consumers across the region for products that support greater health and wellness is also helping grow demand in the health ageing category.
“We are capturing the growth of this segment through one of our flagship brands Anlene. The product range is fortified with nutrients to support bone, joint and muscle so that as we grow older, we can all live a more active lifestyle,” said Ms Megawati
The need for convenience is also seeing more people eat out of home with growth across the foodservice sector, where Fonterra is a market leader for dairy. However, to capture this growth the industry needs to be conscious of consumer trends to ensure that it can deliver to what consumers are looking for.
Sharing his knowledge on the changing palettes of Malaysians, Chef James said, “We are also seeing a real change in offerings thanks to the trend of lessening the carbon footprint by consuming locally grown produce. People are not just looking at healthier food choices, but also towards livestock welfare and Eco-friendly options in terms of vegetables. For example, cows make better quality milk when they are raised well. People want to know where and how the products they consume are coming from, to better ensure quality.
When we talk about flavours, it is the authenticity of local flavours that Malaysians crave for in their daily lives – and already we are seeing restaurants around the country catering towards this.”
Fonterra is a global leader in dairy nutrition – the preferred supplier of dairy ingredients to many of the world’s leading food companies. It is also a market leader with its own consumer dairy brands in New Zealand and Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Fonterra is a farmer-owned co-operative and the largest processor of milk in the world. It is one of the world’s largest investors in dairy research and innovation drawing on generations of dairy expertise to produce more than two million tonnes of dairy ingredients, value added dairy ingredients, specialty ingredients and consumer products for 140 markets.
Fonterra Brands Malaysia began its operations in 1975 in Shah Alam, Selangor. Today it has two manufacturing plants, Susumas and Dairymas, and a total of 700 workers dedicated to bring the best in dairy nutrition to Malaysians. All dairy products by Fonterra Brands Malaysia are certified Halal by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) and the New Zealand Islamic Development Trust (NZIDT). Fonterra Brands Malaysia also adheres to international and local industry standards and achieved the FSSC22000, Veterinary Health Mark and GMP certificates. Fonterra in Malaysia is known for its leading brands – Anlene, Anmum Materna, Anmum Lacta, Anmum Essential, Fernleaf, CalciYum, Chesdale – and under its foodservices division, Anchor Food Professionals, it is known for Anchor, Mainland and Perfect Italiano.