This article is extracted from Albert Kong (CEO, Asiawide Franchise Consultants)’s 45 minutes presentation when he was invited to be the Keynote Speaker by Mr. Chu Hong Minh, (Founder, Restaurant Association of Vietnam) during the ASIA Food & Beverage Summit 2021 event. The title of this article is “Being aware of Food & Beverage Trends in the world so as to achieve growth and Operational Excellence.”
In this day and age, almost nothing surprises me anymore… All the previous trends on food and beverages continue to present themselves
– examples include “plant-based protein”, “sustainability”, “organic”, “convenience”, “health & wellness” and “food waste”. In addition, there’s the continued momentum of small food companies offering products with a purpose and how the consumer is gravitating towards actually doing what they say and buying these products.
A caveat : not everything that happens in one country will automatically also happen in another. One needs to discern by carefully observing and analyzing the local factors vis-à-vis the so-called trends. For example, Taco Bell thrives in the USA but did not take off in Singapore.
Here are a few trends that I wish to comment on:
1. Food Safety.
Commonsensically, pandemic or not, food safety is sacrosanct in the food & beverages business. With the daily reporting in all sorts of media concerning the virus, and the importance of good hygiene, this trend, this emphasis on food safety will not go away.
2.Transparency / Traceability
As an extension of the Food Safety issue or trend, well-informed consumers are now wanting to know the source of ingredients that go into their food. There are already many f&b companies that use blockchain technology to help trace where the different ingredients originate from. This will project them as being transparent, and therefore, gain more customers and loyalty.
One example that I will quote is a report in Reuters, dated September 24, 2021. In it, “Consumer habits have shifted in China during the pandemic and Yum China was launching new products and packaged foods to capture the at-home consumption trend,” CEO Joey Wat said. Another example is the way many f&b companies use mobile apps to let their customers order, pay, and receive their food.
4. Plant-based food
More and more companies like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Boca Foods, Gardein Protein, etc., are producing all kinds of plant-based meats, in the US$8.6 Billion (2020) market (https://www.imarcgroup.com/plant-based-meat-companies)
The oft-quoted reason is
5. Technological innovation
The cost of labour, and the retention of employees…, these are challenges most f&b companies face on a daily basis. Which is why there is an increasing proliferation of technical gadgets or tools that can help ameliorate the situation. I quoted two examples: Crown Coffee’s robotic barista called Ella, and Putien (Chinese restaurant) using a robotic server. Other ubiquitous gadgets include self-ordering machines (used by many fast-food companies including McDonald’s, Yoshinoya, etc.). I also mentioned Domino’s using autonomous vehicles (DOM) to deliver their pizzas (in New Zealand, and elsewhere…). Yet another tool is the vending machine.
6. Environment Protection
The buzz word now all over the world is ESG (environment criteria, social criteria, governance). Companies that ignore ESG will be viewed negatively. F&B companies that have strict policies and practices to protect the environment will gain points with the end consumer. Using recyclable packaging, using neutral detergents, and reducing wastage (be it food, electricity, water, etc.) are three simple ways to start this praise-worthy journey.
7. Gut-friendly food
These products are intended to support digestive health—examples include yogurt and kombucha. But researchers have begun to develop temperature-stable bacterial strains that expand their potential. Expect to see more shelf stable products like probiotic-rich granola bars, nut butters and beverages in the coming months. https://www.fooddive.com/news/
8. Ghost Kitchens / Cloud Kitchens / Digital Restaurants
There are now more and more such players in the market. Many are existing f&b companies that want to reach out to more customers without having to invest in a physical board-and- mortar restaurant. The ghost kitchen other advantages include tackling difficulties including safety, labour shortages, and rising costs. The latest to jump on the trend is Inspire Brands, the parent company of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Jimmy John’s, Sonic, and other popular chains.
Another example: Nestlé Professional Singapore and TiffinLabs have collaborated to co- create multiple ‘plug & play’ digital restaurant brands which feature plant-based products and beverage concoction from Nestlé Professional Singapore for traditional F&B businesses to operate. The ‘plug & play’ solution allows F&B operators such as restaurants, cafés, and bistros to digitalize by adopting and operating digital restaurant brands from TiffinLabs to provide more options for dine-in guests and online delivery consumers on top of their existing brands. This enables F&B operators to become a cloud kitchen themselves and tap into the burgeoning delivery market to earn at least 10% incremental revenues and over 25% incremental profits.
9. Other food trends:
Believe it or not, the bubble tea craze rages on. I see it in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and many other places. This link gives you an idea why there are so much interest in the boba tea. One of many reposts on the popularity of bubble tea is https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/bubble-tea-sugar-content-sweeter-than-coke- soda-916016
In closing, I want to say that understanding the basics of business is very important.
In the more than 300 presentations I have given in the last 33 years, I have always emphasized the importance of adhering to basic principles. For example, the P’s in marketing – product/service, price, place/location , promotion/PR ( for example, McDonald’s collaborated on an Adidas shoe in India earlier this year, and in the US, Papa John’s stretched its pizza cheesiness in a limited time streetwear collaboration with cheddar cheese), packaging, etc.
Another thing I preach often is the PESTEL analysis tool – Political, Economical, Socio-cultural, Technological, Environmental and Legal considerations. Having a good grasp of these factors will help the company avoid minefields and blind spots and expensive lessons.
With a good leader and a good team (P for People), I am confident Vietnamese restaurant companies can expand and succeed in international markets.