Taste of Tomorrow: Lessons from FHA 2024, Asia’s Premier Culinary Showcase

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With over 1600 exhibitors from 91 countries, Food and Hotel Asia (FHA) 2024 in Singapore was another bustling congregation of the agri-food community showcasing their latest products, processes, technologies, and ingredients. Suffice to say that a trade show such as FHA presents an accurate depiction of the state of the agri-business industry and is an indicator of where food trends are going at present.

The Tractus Singapore team visited FHA 2024, and these were our top 3 observations and takeaways:

  1. Distributors and channel partners are not easy to find.

Having spoken with 20+ different food and beverage companies exhibiting at FHA 2024, there was one commonality amongst many of them in terms of their main challenge in ASEAN (and to a wider extent, across APAC): challenges with distributors on-the-ground. From instant noodle manufacturers and cheese to chocolates and niche ingredients, many companies were facing the following issues with their distribution partners:

  1. Inability to satisfy sales targets
  2. Not being proactive enough in marketing
  3. Lack of communication
  4. Not doing justice to the brand

Whether companies are bringing their products into ASEAN for the first time or have been present in the market and have existing relationships with distributors, these challenges occur when an objective process of partner identification or vetting has not taken place.

  1. Whatever happened to the momentum of plant-based meat?

With sales tumbling for plant-based foods across developed markets globally, Singapore too is experiencing a slowdown in demand, according to recent industry reports, and you can also see a change in momentum on the ground. We observed that plant-based meats and alternative foods seemed to have taken a backseat at FHA 2024 compared to previous years. The exhibition space dedicated to these products was noticeably smaller, with fewer companies participating. This is a shift from 2023, which saw a vibrant presence in this segment, including the APA Tasting Bar, showcasing 12 new products from 9 companies, and 15 participants at the Alternative Proteins Asia section of FHA.

While the plant-based meat and alternative food segment at FHA 2024 occupied a smaller space compared to previous years, there were signs of a strategic pivot within the industry. Some Asian-based brands, for instance, showcased a focus on local and new flavors, as well as convenient Ready-to-Eat (RTE) options. This approach could be a way to build or rebuild a stronger mass market audience base in the region.

Asian brands, particularly Singapore’s Grasshopper, are leading the way with a focus on familiar flavors and convenient formats. Grasshopper’s innovative take on shawarma, a popular Middle Eastern street food, exemplifies this approach. Their ready-to-eat shawarma features tender jackfruit and spirulina as the base, seasoned with a blend of traditional Middle Eastern spices.

Tractus’ discussions with plant-based companies during FHA 2024 corroborate most of the recent industry reports/news on the impact of higher pricing and consumer taste preferences on plant-based meat sales.

Credit: Food and Hotel Asia website
  1. Singapore is still one of the primary test markets in ASEAN for new and premium agri-food brands and products.

Since 2022, our visits to FHA have solidified one conclusion: Singapore’s position as a regional hub and trendsetter that neighboring markets look to make it an optimal starting point for many F&B companies looking to enter ASEAN. In terms of its premium price points, ease of doing business, prevalence of English, as well as the diversity of its community, Singapore is the most natural choice as a first step. Apart from its burgeoning food service industry (there are over 53,000 retail and non-retail food establishments here), for those F&B players focusing on doing B2B sales, Singapore is also home to more than 2,100 food processing establishments. Of course, given the limitations that come with a small market size, companies look to start here before considering the larger markets in ASEAN.

How Tractus Can Help

If you are looking to expand your agri-food business in the ASEAN region, it is important to ask the right questions: (i) do we have the right channel partner or distributor who will do justice to my product/brand (ii) are we trying to bring a product that is actually in demand, and (iii) are we going into the right markets for our business?

With more than 25 years of experience and a proven track record of success, Tractus Asia is the trusted advisor for companies looking to expand their agri-food business in Southeast Asia. We leverage our deep regional knowledge and industry expertise to help you navigate the complexities of this dynamic region.


Authored by

Udai Panicker is Country Manager Singapore.


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