Simmering hot pot, soft filled buns, sticky sweet and sour pork…are there any cuisines better known for their varied tastes, smells and flavours as Chinese food? Food is central to China’s culture, family life and national celebrations, and increasingly consumers are looking for prepared and packaged food products that deliver on taste, texture and overall eating experience while also helping them to meet their health goals.
Ahead of the Food Ingredients China 2022 trade show this month, Remington Zhu, Tate & Lyle Vice President and General Manager for China, sets out the opportunity he sees to help more consumers in China live healthier lives.
“Food is such a source of joy for Chinese families, yet we see a growing awareness that changes in the diet are necessary to improve overall health, and this is translating into shoppers choosing options with less sugar, salt and fat, and with added health benefits,” Remington explains.
Awareness driving healthier choices
Around half (48%)1 of consumers in China state that they are looking for healthier options in their food and drink, compared with just over one third (39%)1 of consumers across Asia Pacific. “Whether it’s due to the success of nutrition education, a specific national response to the pandemic and the desire of people to take more control of their health, or simply greater awareness of conditions such as type 2 diabetes which affects one in 10 adults in China2, the appetite for healthier products is growing strongly. This demand can be met by food and beverage companies who are actively innovating with health in mind,” Remington continued.
Less of the sweet stuff
Sugar reduction, an established global consumer trend, is highly relevant in the China market, with 60% of consumers saying that they plan to consume less sugar.3 “Certainly, many of the customer briefs that we’ve worked on recently have a sugar reduction goal, such as a reduced-sugar oyster sauce or drinkable yoghurt, and in almost every case we’ve brought a combination of our ingredients to deliver a healthier product that doesn’t compromise on taste,” Remington added. “Our toolkit of sugar reduction solutions, including low- and no-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose and stevia, is extensive, and often it’s a mix or a ‘sugar reduction solution’ as we call it, that meets the customer brief and consumers’ taste expectations.”
Innovation in beverages, one of Tate & Lyle’s key categories of expertise, has been particularly active with launches growing by 8.6%4 in China in the past year alone. This is the same picture across Asia Pacific, with new product launches of low- and no- sugar beverages in the region growing at a rate of 10% CAGR5 over the past five years, as large global brands work to deliver on bold commitments to reduce sugar in their portfolios, and local brands innovate to meet consumer demand. Many successful launches have been assisted by Tate & Lyle food scientists working in the Company’s Customer Innovation and Collaboration Centres in Shanghai and Singapore, part of a global network of 16 Centres.
Finding ways to add fibre
“It’s not just about what consumers want to see less of on a product’s nutrition labels – and we know that a majority (84%)6 of consumers in Asia Pacific are reading product labels – it’s also the extra components they expect to see to boost their daily intakes of certain nutrients,” Remington continued. More than half (56%)7 of consumers in China report wanting to increase their fibre intake, as awareness of the many and varied benefits of fibre continues to grow. “Although great taste will always be an important determining factor in any purchase or repeat purchase, consumers in China expect the products they buy to contribute to their overall health and wellness, especially in categories such as beverage, baked goods and dairy.”
Tate & Lyle’s food scientists have supported customers to enhance a wide range of food and beverage products with the benefits of fibre, such as hot pot seasonings, fortified water and custard cake fillings, leveraging its extensive fibre portfolio and in some cases helping to achieve on-pack claims including ‘source of fibre’ or ‘high in fibre’. Fibre is also being used to great effect in reducing sugar in products, a ‘win-win’ for consumers’
Recipe change: As much an art as a science
When you change an ingredient in a recipe to enhance its health credentials this will affect how all other ingredients interact in the ‘food matrix’, the complex interplay of nutrients in a food or beverage. It’s very rare that one ingredient is an exact match for another one.
“Many of our ingredient solutions for healthier products require the use of one of our texturants or functional systems, which can enable a seamless reformulation by replacing other ingredients while maintaining overall mouthfeel sensation. By doing this, the consumer can enjoy the same eating or drinking experience despite the changes,” Remington explained. “At Tate & Lyle, our purpose is Transforming Lives through the Science of Food and through our product portfolio, global footprint and application know-how, we believe we can help our customers make a real difference to some of society’s biggest public health challenges. It motivates us every day.”
Tate & Lyle scientists and ingredient experts will be at Food Ingredients China on 16 – 18 Aug. Visit them at booth #51B51 to find out how to solve your formulation challenge and launch a winning product!
- Nielsen BASES
- Li Y, Teng D, Shi X. Prevalence of diabetes recorded in mainland China using 2018 diagnostic criteria from the American Diabetes Association: national cross-sectional study. BMJ. 2020 Apr 28;369:m997
- Tate & Lyle Proprietary Consumer Ingredient Perception Research, China 2021; 1149 online consumers, plan to consume somewhat less or much less sugar in the next 12 months
- Mintel GNPD
- Mintel GNPD 2016-2021, food and beverage, new product launches with one or more of following claims on pack: Suitable for Diabetic, Diet/Light, Low/No/Reduced Calorie, Low/No/Reduced Carb, Low/No/Reduced Glycemic, Low/Reduced Sugar, No Added Sugar, Sugar Free claim on pack.)
- Tate & Lyle Proprietary Consumer Ingredient Perception Research, China 2021; 1149 online consumers, read nutrition labels always or sometimes.
- Tate & Lyle Proprietary Consumer Ingredient Perception Research, China 2021; 1149 online consumers, plan to consume somewhat more or much more fibre in the next 12 months