Why cardiovascular health functional foods are primed to take-off across APAC: Euromonitor

Cardiovascular diseas accounts for 40% of all deaths in China. ©iStock

Despite Asia Pacific being a region with high incidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), sales of cardiovascular health positioned foods and beverages are not high, writes Maria Mascaraque from Euromonitor International.

They are valued at US$645m in 2016, just accounting for 8% of global sales for these products. This is mainly coming from three countries - South Korea, Japan and Taiwan - and it is interesting to see that the popular products in these countries are quite different.

In South Korea, they were valued at US$74m in 2016, of which 97% comes from reduced salt shelf stable meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables.

In the case of Japan, most of the cardiovascular prime positioning comes with high content of oils and fats. Functional margarine and spreads targeting this positioning were valued at $78m in 2016. The focus here is more related with the use of functional ingredients with cardiovascular health benefits rather than reducing sodium levels or saturated fats. 

Looking at Taiwan, their cardiovascular health positioned products were valued at $26m in 2016, with the most of it (81%) coming from reduced salt sauces, dressings and condiments.

Generally speaking, table sauces remained the most popular product type within the category in 2016, having a retail volume share of 40% within overall sauces, dressings and condiments.

Despite the developments in these countries, cardiovascular health is still an emerging 'prime positioning' in Asia Pacific as more attention is currently being paid on general wellbeing and digestive health.

Taking this into account, there are products that are not being positioned for cardiovascular health, but could also benefit it.

Singapore, for instance, had small sales coming from cardiovascular health positioning, valued at just $4m in 2016.

However, it showed a 4% growth in our review period of 2011-16, mainly fuelled by products like MARIGOLD HL Milk, which is fortified with plant sterols. It is produced by Malaysia Dairy Industries Pte Ltd and has been aggressively promoted in 2016, even though the brand has been around for a couple of years now. This product is also low in fat and lactose, fortified with nine vitamins and high in calcium.

CVD benefits not promoted

Singapore has also seen new product launches during this year that are not targeting cardiovascular health, but have benefits related to it.

Magnolia Plus Oats Lo-Fat Hi-Cal Milk is an oat based milk launched in July 2016 by F&N Foods (S) Pte Ltd. It is positioned for general wellbeing and it contains beta-glucan (oat soluble fibre), making this milk a good candidate to target cardiovascular health as well.

Another new product development in the country is the bread loaf Sunshine Smart-Carb Low G.I, which is positioned for weight management.

It was launched in April 2016 by Auric Pacific Marketing Pte Ltd. It contains vitamin Bs and iron but its main claim is based on its 90% whole grains content. As high fibre products have shown to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, this is again a good example of cross benefits between different positionings.

There are still a number of countries in Asia Pacific where cardiovascular health positioned products have not yet achieved noteworthy sales like China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In the case of China it is interesting to see that they are not developments in this sector because it had the world's second largest sales of health and wellness products after the US in 2016.

Therefore, it is only a matter of time until cardiovascular health positioned foods and beverages take off in China, not least because cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the country, accounting for 40% of all deaths.

Euromonitor International data shows that over 2011-2016, health and wellness (HW) cow's milk in China increased value sales by 118%, HW yoghurt increased by 110% and HW edible oils by 91%, and all of them are good products to fortify with cardiovascular health ingredients.

Consumer interest in health and wellness is clearly evident in these categories and cardiovascular positioned products are likely to find a good reception, as long as they are coupled with effective consumer education campaigns aimed at their key target groups.

Countries like China, with no visible sales for these products should take off and follow on the food steps of South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Overall, new products developments under this positioning will help to slowdown the incidence of cardiovascular diseases but also are predicted to have great sales potential, with expected growth of 10% by 2021, creating interesting business opportunities for manufacturers.

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