Sustainability increasingly influencing consumer decisions in Asia-Pacific

January 2024

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Sustainability is emerging as a key influencing factor in Asia-Pacific, a key consumer market for food & beverage manufacturers, thanks to the rising urban population and increasing impact of environmental awareness.

Increasing environmental consciousness impacting purchases decisions

With growing levels of urbanization and globalization in Asia-Pacific and the large population of countries such as India and China, the carbon footprint of the food and beverage industry is significantly increasing. Consumer consciousness regarding their food and drink choices is also high, given the heightened awareness about the environment. Moreover, consumers are holding brands to a higher standard than ever before and expect them to bring about a change on issues ranging from climate change to social inequality. In the coffee and tea sector, for instance, consumers are looking closer at raw material sourcing, certifications supporting the same, and the effects on the final product quality. Given these changing preferences, companies need to focus on sustainability and traceability of supply chains not just for environmental reasons but also to stay competitive and attract more consumers.

Once considered relevant to only palm oil, sustainability now encompasses the categories of cocoa, coffee, and others. The expenditure on sustainable food by consumers in the APAC region, primarily the discerning young millennials and Gen Z cohorts, will rise significantly. For instance, for 81% of consumers in the region, sustainability is an essential or nice-to-have feature that they actively look for in purchases*.

Sustainability and ethics is a broad domain comprising upcoming trends such as ethical luxury, and many others. The word “luxury” is not confined to designer fashion anymore. The concept of sustainability may be more popular for health and beauty products and even cleaning products as these are conventionally considered toxic and chemical-laden, making the demand for clean-sourced and organic ingredients and products higher in these sectors. However, the food industry enables a wider reach to an expanded audience and top F&B manufacturers are vying for a piece of the pie by offering premium and exclusive experiences to consumers, be it gourmet creations, upscale restaurants, or ethical sourcing of raw materials. This has spawned the rise of new brands catering to this trend. These luxury brands understand that sustainable and ethical offerings are vital to their brand image. In response to rising consumer demand for sustainability, these brands are placing increasing emphasis on offering “ethical luxury” in their food and beverage offerings. This helps provide a guilt-free consumption experience to consumers. They often cross-promote these with other products such as clothing to increase sales, while reinforcing the brand image. Pertaining to ethical luxury, India-based Stonefield Flavours recently launched a premium line of chocolates, Chocolatius Collections, comprising research-backed and premium handcrafted offerings, elevating the mundane chocolate experience to a gourmet luxurious one. More importantly, the brand claims responsible cocoa sourcing, including from Ghana and Peru, and an ethical “bean to bar” journey.

Reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, localism gains prominence

Localism is yet another sub-trend wherein consumers choose to support initiatives such as farmers’ markets with typically shorter supply chains and lesser carbon footprint. Brands need to align with this consumer belief that local is fresher and better. While capitalizing on the rising consumer interest in ethical products, brands need to ensure the product matches up to the advertised features, while mitigating the risks of false social media marketing and “viral” trends that are transient. They also need to be careful about resource maturity as the rate of utilization of resources versus the rate of their replenishment is a hotbed topic in sustainability. However, the development of newer resources to ensure independence from non-renewable sources needs time and focus. For instance, though cultured meat and alternative proteins serve to mitigate supply chain shortages in the carbon-intensive meat industry, these are still immature categories and the products need regulatory approvals before they achieve mainstream acceptance.

Startups explore sustainable packaging

Eco-friendly packaging comprises a big chunk of the sustainability game. Most packaging currently is designed for single use and stays in landfills indefinitely if it is not biodegradable. According to the Singapore Environment Council, 55% of this waste is plastic. Therefore, sustainable packaging is the need of the hour. Singapore-based startup Alterpacks has developed a pioneering solution in this regard, using spent grains that are used and disposed of by food manufacturers such as brewers to make 100% organic and freezer- and microwave-friendly packaging. Similarly, Australia-based BioPak uses sugarcane and other plant pulp in its BioCane fibre packaging solution that is wholly compostable. Competition is expected to intensify over the immediate future leading to more innovative launches as consumers and government regulations demand and mandate sustainable packaging solutions. In addition, companies can leverage technology to make this information readily accessible to consumers. For instance, with the ubiquitous presence of smartphones, 27% of millennials in Australasia find the point of origin and sustainability information extremely, quite, or slightly useful when accessible through a QR code on the packaging**.


Governments and major companies are well on their way to achieving “green” targets and goals. For instance, the South Korean government plans to double plastic waste recycling rates to almost 70% by 2030 and is actively working towards the same. Meanwhile, Nestlé Malaysia claimed that it has recorded lower greenhouse emissions in 2022 than in 2018.

Author: Jaya Dandey

Consumer Analyst at GlobalData 

Source: GlobalData Consumer Insights

* GlobalData 2022 Q4 Consumer Survey Snapshot: Attitudes and Behavior in Asia-Pacific

** GlobalData Q4 2023 Consumer Survey – Asia & Australasia, with 3,054 respondents

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