With plant-based food rising in popularity in recent years and further accelerated by COVID-19, Nestlé Hong Kong has introduced Nestlé Fitness, a product range with snacks and beverages made with whole grains, as well as high-fibre and plant-based ingredients.

“The snack food market here in Hong Kong is very energetic with numerous choices that are locally produced or imported from overseas countries. Consumers welcome innovative ideas, making the city a great place for brands to introduce fresh and unconventional new products,” said May Chung, general manager of Nestlé Hong Kong.

The FMCG brand’s new range comes as consumers in Asia place increasing attention and priority on their health thanks to COVID-19. Chung added that the plant-based beverage market keeps rising with Asia a key driver with about 60% of global plant-based beverages consumption taking place in the region.

Speaking to Food Navigator Asia, Somsubhra Gan Choudhuri, co-founder and CEO at Ai Palette said the early days of the pandemic saw consumers gravitate towards comfort snacks. However, consumer preferences towards snacking changed, the longer lockdowns were enforced.

“We observed that people still continue snacking but were now more conscious about their diet and are moving towards healthy snacking,” he added.

Beyond snacks, the demand for plant-based protein foods in Asia has been rising steadily, as consumer concerns over meat products rise in tandem with increased attention to diet and health.

According to Euromonitor International, the substitute meat market in the Asia-Pacific region is forecasted to expand 11.6% to US$17.1 billion in 2020. Prior to the outbreak, China's 'free from meat' market, including plant-based products meant to replace meat, was predicted to be worth nearly US$12 billion (S$17 billion) by 2023, up from just under US$10 billion in 2018.

In early June, Yum China introduced offerings using mock meat at three brands it operates in the country – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – by teaming up with U.S. producer Beyond Meat. Starbucks announced in April that it was partnering with Beyond Meat to add plant-based meat to its food menu in China.

Japanese hamburger chain Mos Food Services has already introduced a plant-based burger in Singapore and Taiwan and began sales in its home market at the end of May.

Nestlé will also be investing more than 100 million Swiss francs (US$94 million) to produce plant-based meat in China by the end of the year.

Sourced from Marketing Interactive, Food Navigator Asia, Nikkei Asian Review, Reuters