Immune-boosting product launches in Southeast Asia

7 Dec 2020

Chocolate snacks with adaptogenic mushroom powder, vitamin C jelly, and prebiotic-packed crackers are just some recent product launches in Southeast Asia promising to boost consumers’ immunity as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

The product launches were detailed in a recently published report, Conscious Consumption in a Post COVID-19 Normal: ASEAN, commissioned by Food Industry Asia (FIA).

Immune-boosting product launches in Southeast Asia

Using data compiled by artificial intelligence tool AI Palette for the period January 2019 to August 2020, the report analyses shifts in consumer behaviour as the ASEAN region emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. As in other geographies, a demand for health ingredients has seen a sharp uptick as a result of the virus.

In addition to traditional ingredients associated with immune health, such as vitamin C, citrus fruit, ginger and garlic, consumers sought out other ingredients believed to boost immunity. Moringa in Malaysia, kamote in the Philippines, curcuma in Indonesia and selenium in Thailand all saw a rise in demand.

New product scanner

The pandemic has also accelerated demand for previously popular and emerging ingredients, such as prebiotics, probiotics, parabiotics, and adaptogenic mushrooms, with food and drink brands meeting consumer demand with new product launches.

In July 2020, House Osotspa Foods, the producer of C-vitt drink in Thailand, expanded its portfolio to include lemon and orange-flavoured jelly, describing the product as a “new experience” for consumers to get their daily intake of Vitamin C.

Singapore-headquartered dietary supplement firm Avida Health announced in April 2020 the launch of chocolate balls to improve immunity.

Aimed at children aged four to 12 years old, the bite-size snacks contain beta-glucan derived from six different functional fungi: shiitake (Lentinus edodes), enokitake (Flammulina velutipes), maitake (Grifolafrondosa), white jelly fungus (Tremella fuciformis), lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus), and royal sun agaricus (Aspergillus brasiliensis).

The company said its R&D team was already working on the product but had sped up the process amid a coronavirus-fuelled rise in demand.

In May this year, Filipino snack maker Rebisco launched high-fibre, low sodium biscuits and cracker thins under its Jeanne & Jamie’s Recipes brand. The biscuits are enriched with prebiotic inulin fibre, which the company says helps the body absorb more nutrients, thus boosting immunity.

In August 2020, Singaporean healthy brand Asmara launched two products in powder format – Yin Elixir and Yang Elixir – made with three varieties of ginseng and around 10 billion clinically tested paraprobiotics for immunity. Unlike probiotics, which contain live microorganisms, paraprobiotics (also called ghost probiotics) are inactivated cells that are also said to be potentially beneficial for health.

Taste versus health

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has shone the spotlight on food, immunity and health, Singapore is the only market in the ASEAN region where consumers are opting for food and drink products that prioritise health over taste when making purchase decisions, according to the report.

In the Philippines, one of the worst hit countries by the pandemic in Southeast Asia, consumers are giving equal importance to health and taste, while Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai consumers say they are choosing taste over health.

Convenience is also a growing requirement for packaged food products in almost all Southeast Asian countries.

“As the consumers adjust to the new normal and fears around availability and hygiene reduce, they are now looking for meals and recipes that are easy to make at home and also offer some novel experience or benefits,” write the report authors.

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