Southeast Asia: what are the trends bringing 2023 to a close? What are the prospects for 2024?

The FIA held in Bangkok last September allowed us to note some major trends marking out the final months of 2023, and at the same time get a glimpse of what is in store in the year ahead, 2024. This immersion into the culture at the heart of ASIA at the FIA was the ideal place to meet our customers and get to know them better. The year 2023 marks a return to normal at last, after four years of living with COVID.



Many eyes on China


China’s economic health, a real driver of Asian demand, is raising questions and causing anxiety for all with a stake in the Southeast Asia region. And with good reasons: the downturn in the Chinese economy, the decline in household purchasing power, the under-30 unemployment rate and the decline in the birth rate are not matters of indifference to manufacturers in the region. Falling Chinese demand is creating uncertainty about the economic health of companies that are still overly dependent on the Chinese economy. 2024, bringing in as it will the year of the dragon, is likely to offer some encouragement, notably for the infant formula market. Eagerly awaited by couples hoping to have a child, and a long haul from the potential negative effects of the COVID vaccine, the year of the dragon should see the birthrate in China rise to about 9 or 10 million (compared with an expected birthrate of 8 million for 2023).

Beyond the Chinese market and its impact on the economy of Southeast Asian countries, a certain dynamism can be seen in the area with the resumption of tourism in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The downside of tourism and the westernization of local customs, in particular as regards food, is the continuing difficulty for manufacturers in the area in sourcing certain ingredients and production costs.



The search for economic and nutritional alternatives


The search for economic alternatives remains the chief preoccupation of purchasers, especially when faced with increases in energy prices and production costs while trying to find “clean label” alternatives. One of the most obvious examples is the production of analogue cheese, where numerous increases in capacity have been identified, thus confirming the attraction of the local populations to certain products, notably children’s snacks, pizza cheese, processed burger cheese, etc. One initiative of the government is to make companies improve the nutritional profile of products put on the market, in particular those aimed at children. To this end, analogue cheese for children must contain at least 50 % real or derived cheeses and no more 25 %, thus raising the cost.

The optimization of the nutritional content and the ability of the products on the market to meet the needs of sensitive populations such as the elderly or sports people were also at the forefront of our discussions. Data supplied by the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED) shows that the population over 65 years of age in Southeast Asia will be nearly 56 million people out of a total of more than 686 million, i.e. some 8 %[1] of the population in 2023. Between now and 2050 or 2100, the simulations converge to show a drop in the birth rate and a corresponding reduction in the population across the whole Southeast Asia region, which would imply an inversion of the age pyramid over the next 20 years in favor of the over-65 age group[2]. With its specific needs, especially for protein, this age group is likely to be interested in products that are protein and vitamin rich,  whereas remaining affordable off course..

Always attentive to our customers, Lactalis Ingredients makes every effort to stay as close as possible to the market in order to offer ingredients that meet the needs of all, both now and for the future. The double advantage of dairy proteins, and this is true for casein and whey proteins, is that they provide both functional and nutritional benefits. For this reasons we are convinced that they will be an inexhaustible source of innovation and development in the years ahead. . Milk, in whatever form it takes, holds a wealth of secrets yet discovered! From the preservation of muscle mass to the development of athletic performance through the homeostasis of the intestinal microbiota, or even the capacity to enhance cognitive ability, we have barely skimmed the surface of what dairy ingredients can offer.



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Author : Maeva Croué

Maeva Croué, Senior Product Manager, has been working in the dairy industry for more than 10 years. Today responsible for dairy powders as a product manager within the Marketing Department of Lactalis Ingredients Subsidiary, she takes care of whey & whey derivatives and milk fat ranges for food and infant nutrition applications. Graduated with an engineer diploma in food science completed with an MBA in agribusiness, she today contributes to build Lactalis Ingredients vision to better meet today and tomorrow market needs.