A report commissioned by GFI APAC and conducted by the Good Growth Co. has studied consumer attitudes to plant-based meat in six Southeast Asian countries — Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Unlike in many Western countries, only a small percentage of consumers (21% on average) said they were looking to reduce their meat consumption. In fact, almost a quarter of participants wanted to eat more meat.
However, the consumers who ate the most meat were also the most enthusiastic about plant-based alternatives, while those who consumed less meat were more skeptical about plant-based products. This indicates that, unlike in the West, consumers are looking to diversify their protein consumption rather than replace meat.
High levels of awareness
44% of participants said they had heard of plant-based meat but never tried it, while 47% had consumed it before. However, just 5% said they eat plant-based meat regularly, indicating that there is significant room for market growth. The number of consumers who had never heard of plant-based meat was relatively low at 9%, but surprisingly, younger consumers were less likely to be aware of it. Over-35s were most likely to be enthusiastic, and current messaging does not seem to be reaching 18-24-year-olds.
According to the research, almost two-thirds of Southeast Asian consumers believe plant-based meat is healthy, while 44% believe it is easy to digest and 38% think it tastes good. Less than 20% have negative perceptions such as “Overly processed” and “May contain bad chemicals/additives”. These perceptions were most prevalent among consumers who said they had no interest in plant-based meat.
The most important factor for the majority of consumers was affordability, with up to 76% of those who are interested in plant-based meat saying they would buy it if it was at price parity with conventional meat. Most strikingly, 80% of all consumers — including those who would otherwise be uninterested — expressed a willingness to buy plant-based meat if it was cheaper than animal meat. However, very few consumers were prepared to pay extra for plant-based meat. This could be a problem, since recent GFI APAC research indicates that animal meat is currently 35% cheaper in the region.
If all concerns were addressed, including cost, three-quarters of all consumers would often choose plant-based meat, including some of those who are currently skeptical of it. Since most are looking to diversify their protein sources rather than replace meat, the survey also found huge interest in blended meat, with 93% of consumers interested in trying it. This could provide a gateway for plant-based meat producers to scale up and reduce prices, including for fully plant-based products.
Overall, the research indicates that when promoting plant-based meat, very different messaging is required in Southeast Asia compared to Western countries. However, there is significant potential for the market; previous research has found that the wider Asia-Pacific region could have the largest share of the global plant-based market in the near future, while APAC alternative protein investments have increased significantly in recent years.
To discuss how food producers can best take advantage of these dynamics, GFI APAC will be hosting a free webinar on February 21.