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Thailand’s Culinary F&B Market


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Post-Pandemic Behavior is Influencing Thailand’s Culinary F&B Market

Thailand, home to some of the world’s finest Michelin-star restaurants alongside irresistible street food delights, stands out as one of the most dynamic Food and Beverage (F&B) hubs in Southeast Asia. The reason lies in its rich and diverse culinary landscape, adept at satisfying the tastes of local and global, unfussy and nuanced palates alike.

However, the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly reshaped consumer behavior. Globally, there has been a major shift in consumer purchasing habits and food consumption patterns, and Thailand is no exception. There is now a heightened focus on diet and well-being, with healthy living becoming the prevailing mantra. Consumers are increasingly seeking out various organic ingredients and ‘free-from’ products, including vegan or gluten-free foods in their dining menu.

This trend also encompasses a growing preference for natural foods over those containing artificial flavors and preservatives. Additionally, there is a rising demand for organic and whole foods, with consumers opting for these options over heavily processed alternatives.

Recent data from market research firm Mintel reveals a notable trend among Thai consumers post-pandemic: a strong inclination towards healthy living reflected in their dietary choices. More than half the respondents intended to educate themselves about nutrition. Plant-based products showed a significant growth opportunity, with nearly a quarter of Thai consumers (24%) aiming to transition from animal-based meat to a fully plant-based diet in the future, the report noted, adding that affordability is a concern, especially among younger consumers and those with lower incomes.

Plant-Based Food: Flavor of the Season in Thailand

Thailand is witnessing a notable surge in plant-based offerings spanning from fast-food chains to vegan and upscale restaurants. As consumers reevaluate their dining preferences in favor of healthier lifestyles, sustainability and traceability are emerging as key considerations for both food manufacturers and restaurant owners.

Madre Brava, a non-profit organization, conducted a recent survey revealing that a majority of respondents are willing to transition to plant-based protein and alternatives over meat. About 67% of participants express intent to reduce their meat consumption within the next two years. The survey engaged over 1,500 participants across Thailand.

Food producers are actively innovating to create plant-based products that are not only flavorful but also budget-friendly, using readily available ingredients such as pulses and lentils. Exciting alternatives such as vegan cheese, plant-based fish products, and pasta substitutes are swiftly gaining favor among consumers.

Krungthai Compass Research Centre expects Thailand’s plant-based food industry to touch US$1.5 billion in 2024 with a projected 20% annual growth backed by strong domestic demand for plant-based meat, meal and egg products.

Sustainability and Culinary Innovation

Sustainability has become a pressing concern in Thailand’s F&B industry, gaining momentum as consumers increasingly recognize the environmental and social impacts of food production and consumption. Practices such as locally sourced, sustainable farming, food waste reduction, organic ingredient usage, and recycling have significantly boosted the demand for sustainably sourced ingredients within the food and restaurant sectors.

Leading chefs and restaurateurs in Bangkok are proactively seeking out eco-friendly sourcing for their ingredients to align with the values of their clientele. These efforts include investing in energy-efficient appliances and lighting to minimize energy consumption and operational costs, as well as reducing carbon footprints through the sourcing of ingredients from local agriculture.

Although sourcing sustainably can entail additional expenses for restaurants, consumers are demonstrating a willingness to pay more to support local businesses and communities.

 

The changing landscape of the post-pandemic market in Thailand offers promising opportunities for the restaurant and food industry. With the tourism sector projected to fully recover by 2024, surpassing pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the potential for innovation in food and dining experiences for locals and tourists alike is stronger than ever.

About the author:

Thanit Apipatana is a Bangkok-based entrepreneur, investor, and advisor with a keen interest in venture building, real estate, F&B, education, sports, and philanthropy. Thanit Apipatana has advised companies in the region including Singapore-based proptech company Mogul.sg and Thai-based Life Below Labs , a project that is looking to catapult the Thai beer market to a new level with liquid yeast.

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