Innovating the NZ way to meet changing food demands in Asia

Asian consumer demands are changing

Asian consumers are changing the way they shop, cook and eat.

Rising incomes across the region translates to a willingness to spend on discretionary items including premium food and beverage products.

In Singapore, this has resulted in the F&B industry now being worth more than $14 billion.

Shopper behaviour has evolved. Cost has also become less of a deciding factor. Decisions are now made based on provenance, quality and safety.

Health is also at the forefront of consumer concerns.

Diseases such as Type 2 diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions across the region, including in Singapore, where one in three is at risk of the disease in their lifetime.

The global F&B industry has woken up to the importance of the Asian market.

But to thrive, companies must understand and address the unique needs of consumers across Asia's varied markets.

As a global food provider, New Zealand knows how to deliver on this opportunity.

Its natural environment allows it to provide pure, nutritious food to the world. It sends 80 per cent of this produce to more than 100 markets.

Asia is its largest export destination. Singapore alone imports F&B worth more than $500 million from New Zealand.

New Zealand food companies are staying ahead of the curve in Asia by investing in agri-food research and innovation that will help them meet the demands of the Asian consumer.

It helps that New Zealand's technology sector is also booming. Technology allows it to advance the way it researches, harvests, produces, packages and transports food.

Investment in agri-food research and innovation helps ensure it is producing high-quality food.


Notably, the robotics sector in New Zealand is becoming more aligned with the local food industry, allowing the country to further sharpen its expertise in precision agriculture and reinforce its reputation as a world-class provider of quality food.

For example, Robotics Plus develops and uses robotic technologies to guarantee quality in the picking and packing of fruits and to safeguard traceability.

This has resulted in a better presentation of the fruits packed for export, as well as a safer and more consistent handling of the fruits.

Collaborative efforts in research and innovation among industries in New Zealand have also been key in ensuring that it is meeting the needs of consumers around the world.

One illustration of such collaboration is the recently established Nuku ki te Puku, a Maori food cluster. This project brings together academics and Maori businesses to develop products that can address the nutritional and clinical needs of Asian consumers.

Using the latest academic research, the team is focused on developing a new natural snack food range with a low glycaemic index that can directly respond to diabetes risk in Asia.

These examples show that continued innovation within the food industry is essential to not only better understand the changing demands of consumers in different markets, but also to developing new technologies and products that can eventually meet these changes.

There is so much more work being done in New Zealand in this field, and I am looking forward to showcasing a range of New Zealand businesses harnessing new ideas that can provide a safe and sustainable future for food at this year's Food & Hotel Asia exhibition in Singapore, from April 24 to 27.

The writer is New Zealand's Trade Commissioner to Singapore.