Feeding the Growing Appetite for Poultry

chef cutting duck meat

A meat expert analyses the growing poultry market in Asia Pacific and beyond, from taste trends to the need for transparency


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KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • Consumers in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa are eating more poultry than ever before, especially chicken.
  • The appeal of poultry over other meats is tied to concerns around health and food safety as well as the ease of at-home preparation and overall versatility.
  • As brands innovate, they must pay attention to poultry and chicken trends, such as emerging flavours and preferred formats.
  • Making chicken products that are designed for foodservice delivery is also paramount.
KerryDigest Full Scoop:

Rapid urbanization and a growing population have caused a leap in demand for poultry in Asia Pacific, with the market expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.8% between 2020 to 2025, according to Mordor Intelligence.

A string of factors are fuelling the growth of poultry in the region, among them the proliferation of fast food outlets, the rise of incomes and online retailing, the recent African swine fever outbreak, demand for healthier clean label meat options such as antibiotic- and hormone-free and the pursuit of convenience and snackable lunches. A product and sales analysis report on poultry from Innova Market Insights shows that between 2017 and 2019, Asia was the only high innovation and high value growth market in the poultry category, reflecting consumers’ hunger for new, novel poultry products.

Chicken remains the top poultry variety, particularly in the area of new product development in Australia, China and Southeast Asia. In 2018, chicken comprised 89% of poultry product launches, way ahead of duck, turkey and other meats.

When it comes to top poultry flavours, both local and international tastes appear to please consumer palates. Cheese was number one in Asia followed by smoked, chilli, garlic and barbecue between 2018 and 2019, with pepper and black pepper emerging as fast-growing flavours. Meanwhile, consumers in the Middle East and North Africa favour chilli, cheese and smoked.

chicken kabob on plateWith greater awareness of food safety and disease, traceability will be paramount as consumers demand safe meat and express a growing interest in nutrition and sustainability claims such as additive-free and bird welfare.

Elswhere, we see a growing variety in the marketplace, with poultry-based sausages and convenient poultry snacks competing with a wide range of fresh meat offerings. With greater awareness of food safety and disease, traceability will be paramount as consumers demand safe meat and express a growing interest in nutrition and sustainability claims such as additive-free and bird welfare. Dimitrios Tzouvelekis, General Manager, Meat Technology, Kerry APAC, discusses the changing poultry scene with Ming Rodrigues of KerryDigest.

KerryDigest: Do you see a significant shift in consumer demand for meat in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (APMEA)?

Dimitrios: In the past few years, we’ve seen an increased demand for poultry across many countries in APMEA. The majority of people in this region consume poultry at least once a week, with consumers in China, South Africa, Thailand and Saudi Arabia saying they eat poultry about 3 to 4 times a week.

Historically, poultry has always been one of the most popular proteins in the region and this popularity has accelerated in recent years. One of the key reasons is the emergence of the African Swine Fever, a viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs that has had a huge impact on the meat industry, significantly reducing the population of pigs and driving up pork prices. Many manufacturers have started to switch to poultry meat as a main source for traditionally non-poultry categories, such as sausages and hams. Poultry is seen as a cheaper and healthier protein, hence it has become the most obvious substitute for pork.

We also see plant-based meat alternatives are in higher demand in some markets. While still relatively small, there is a lot of activity and innovation in the meat alternative area, particularly in Australia, China and India. There is some degree of distrust in the meat industry due to the increasing number of food and health safety issues around it, particularly in light of COVID-19. Consumers are showing more interest in alternatives, seeing them as healthier options, even complementing a flexitarian diet. In APMEA though, the generally higher price point of meat alternatives is a barrier which means that overall, poultry will be the number one protein source in the region for quite some time.

KerryDigest: How is the poultry category evolving, particularly in view of COVID-19?

Dimitrios: There are a number of dynamics playing out. First, retail poultry products are experiencing a higher demand than ever before. This is driven by the fact that besides being seen as a healthier meat, poultry is a versatile and easy to cook protein, which is particularly important as people are cooking more frequently at home now. Value-added products that enable people to recreate street food-style dishes and foodservice favourites at home is a big trend right now. Traditionally across APMEA, people have long enjoyed affordable delicious food readily available at street stalls, cafes and mid-tier restaurants. With many of these dining options closed or offering limited menus, consumers are looking for alternative solutions like meal kits and convenient options to recreate at home.

Chicken is one of the best-selling menu items in foodservice, and operators are trying to deliver the fresh taste and texture experience their customers expect.plate of seasoned chicken with seasonings and lemon

Second, foodservice delivery is seeing huge activity as consumers shift from dining out to dining in. Chicken is one of the best-selling menu items, and foodservice operators are trying to deliver the fresh taste and texture experience that their customers expect. This can be a real challenge when the cook-to-table times are extended to allow for home delivery. It’s important that favourites such as wings and nuggets maintain quality and flavour, both in foodservice outlets and on arrival at home.

KerryDigest: Tell us more about the findings from Kerry’s recent consumer research on poultry product purchases and consumption behaviour in APMEA. Given the region’s diverse taste cultures, what are key observations around poultry?

Dimitrios: Consumers across APMEA are always looking for more—new tastes, new formats and new textures. Across seven key markets in the region—Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China—one factor has emerged loud and clear: Taste is the single most important consideration for consumers when purchasing ready-to-cook poultry in supermarkets.

We’re also seeing more general interest in health, with people looking to improve their well-being through healthier food options. While the western narrative on healthy eating has started to shift from fat reduction to reducing carbohydrate and sugar, fat still remains the top concern in most of APMEA. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are the exceptions, with consumer views aligned closer to that in Europe and North America.

With meat and poultry, consumers are looking for low fat, non-fat, low saturated fat and low cholesterol claims, as well as no trans-fat and MSG. In China and Turkey, consumers want healthier options when it comes to processed poultry products, for example, low-calorie, low-salt, low-sugar. Transparency of ingredients is also highly rated in China’s market. When it comes to foodservice, consumers’ concerns are focused on product quality and health, particularly in delivery where they find the fresh-cooked experience lacking.

Around innovation, consumer expectations are high as there are significantly more limited time offers, particularly in the China market for instance, compared to the west. One example is KFC’s Chizza or chicken pizza launched in China, among other countries. Again, this is largely driven by people wanting variety and novelty.

KerryDigest: Poultry isn’t just about the meat. Consumers expect clean manufacturing processes, they want the poultry taste recreated in other formats and across categories, they want new taste and flavour experiences. What are the complexities to delivering on these demands?

Dimitrios: The process of production is becoming more complex and competitive. All manufacturers want to grow and be profitable and consistently deliver on consumer expectations. An unwavering focus on food safety and quality is critical. Continuously reassessing process effectiveness and efficiencies and keeping up with technology is important. But the key is to start with the consumer—what do they want, what is influencing them, how, where and when do they want to eat poultry? Then comes understanding the wider environment and changes going on such as where and how the product is sold and what is important to specific markets—regulations, clean labels, health? Only after looking at all these factors can you think about product and manufacturing, including raw materials, equipment, cooking process, product functionality, taste, visual appeal and other variables.

KerryDigest: How is the future of poultry shaping up, and how does that translate to opportunities for the poultry industry?

Dimitrios: COVID-19 has highlighted that market landscapes and the impact on food purchase and consumption can change dramatically, and quickly.

Meat, and specifically poultry, will always be popular across APMEA and feature as key categories in both retail and on foodservice menus. Taste, food safety, transparency and health will continue to be top of mind and drive purchase decisions, especially as consumers become increasingly educated about these topics.

Innovation will need to play to the needs of taste, health and nutrition—whether in traditional meat and poultry protein or in affordable plant protein meat alternatives. This is where a holistic 360-approach to poultry is key, involving cross-functional teams—R&D, chefs, marketing, regulatory, technical and processing experts. This will ensure the best expertise and contribution throughout the development process and help customers create poultry products consumers will crave for.

To learn more about partnering with Kerry on 360-solutions for Poultry, contact us.

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