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COVID-19 Ingredion Regional Insights Series

News Date : 05/05/2020

At the end of 2019 no one forecasted Covid-19 and since then many countries have experienced some form of panic grocery buying and changes in the foodservice channel. As your partner, we tasked ourselves to look at how the dominant trends would play out in the post panic stage. Would trends be paused, become irrelevant or hastened?

We identified key ideas per trend that you can tap into for growth. If you are keen to know what solutions Ingredion can offer and how we can help shorten your development time, speak with our team today.

Convenience at Home

Many countries around the world have urged or mandated individuals to stay home and practice social distancing. After the panic, individuals have gotten better at planning and consider how soon food will spoil versus their family’s pattern for consumption given the limited space in the refrigerator. While many convenient foods are affected during the pandemic, we share five that will continue to demonstrate the trend today and in the future. 

Ambient Yoghurt

Traditionally, yoghurt is a chilled snack but the emergence of ambient yoghurt has turned old truths on their head.  Ambient yoghurt offers similar macronutrient benefit as chilled yoghurt with comparable taste. With no need for refrigeration, Asian cultures or older population who eschew cold food and beverage will warm up to this convenient, nutritious and tasty meal-in-one.

If you are concerned about the sweetness required to delight consumers, come speak with us about the natural options available.

Ambient Ice Cream

Isolation can lead to despair and this is aggravated by 24-hour news feeds fixated on counting deaths. Against this backdrop, indulgence helps to maintain one’s mental wellbeing. In China, ice cream enjoyed 18% growth in the first two weeks of the outbreak and accelerated +37% in the next fortnight, outshining FMCG Food and Snacking. However, as refrigerator space is limited with the restriction of movement out of home, ambient ice creams will enable anytime indulgence.

Frozen Ready-to-Eat Meals

It is difficult for trendsetters and explorers to leave their homes or they may be more prudent for health reasons than before, however their desire for elaborate meals and lifestyles remain. With limited cooking skills and proliferation of video group chats like zoom, microwaveable meals befitting the ‘gram and their standard for taste will keep them satisfied.

Frozen Dumplings

Paying homage to after office snacks with colleagues or an exotic presentation of meat at home, frozen dumplings are a convenient go-to treat at home. These goodies come with a twist to stand differentiated over time.

Canned Meat

While meat forms a larger portion of Asian diets than before, so have incidences of animal related food crisis been on the rise. Consumers in China may even avoid fresh meat from wet markets reminiscent of where the virus is believed to have originated. Canned meat 2.0 offers an alternative that is safe, convenient and widely available choice.



In-Home Consumption

As people practice social distancing and spend timewithin homes as a way to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus, a new normal of the homebody economy has emerged. Cooking at home is a central activity to tie in convenience, stress relief, indulgence and clean eating. ​

Come with us to explore business opportunities in homes arising from this pandemic. ​

Milk Alternative

For a long time, vegan options were seen as secondary but COVID-19 has put the spotlight on the tension between man and animal. Plant-based alternatives that are able deliver the nutrition of traditional dairy products are primed to become an engine for sustainable food culture. Beyond nutrition and sustainability, dairy alternatives cannot neglect consumers’ desire for enjoyment to unlock mass appeal – from frothy latte art to rich taste to smooth drinkability.

Frozen Processed Meat and Seafood

Families turn to frozen options to reduce the number of trips made to fresh markets or supermarkets. Frozen meats marked as clean label will be perceived as safer, more wholesome and more natural. Whether stir-fried ground pork is up on the Monday menu or an indulgent hotpot with springy fishballs and meatballs for the weekend, these items will save consumers time in preparing meals for their families. ​

Processed Cheese

With the amount of time spent in the house, parents are looking for avenues to keep young children busy. Cooking together is a great way to bond particularly when fun textures are involved, like fried cheese with crispy crunchy skin and stretchable heart. What’s more? Keep it safe for children with easy to cut cheese. ​

All-purpose Sauces

When people were panic buying, they may have stocked on a number of sauces in the pantry. In the future, there will be a sense of pressure to use them before they expire. To avoid unnecessary food waste, consumers can prepare home-cooked meals using a single ingredient such as all-purpose sauces. Whether it's marinating meat, used as a side dip, or added as a secret sauce to your own stir-fry recipe, the usage is countless. Delicious meals are ready in a short time without the hassle of mixing multiple condiments. ​

Easy-to-Cook Sauces

While economies grapple with how and when to open up after lockdown, the broad prediction is that foodservice channel continues to suffer.  Consumers with eating-out lifestyles will crave signature dishes from favourite outlets but with limited cooking skills, recreating these dishes at home is an impossible feat.  Under pressure, more foodservice operators will look to diversify business risk by extending signature dish or sauce for home consumption. Be on the lookout for local entrepreneurs to fill the supply chain gap between foodservice and easy-to-cook home packages.​

Bubble Milk Tea

From cheese to brown sugar, the current wave of bubble tea has hit new peaks in Asia and spread to the whole world. Stores pop up as fast as people queue for them. The global bubble tea market is projected to reach USD 3.5 Billion by 2026 a CAGR of 8% (2019-2026)1. Short-term restrictions on foodservice channels and possible concerns around hygiene in the mid-term mean that youngsters may take to homemade bubble tea innovations to profess their individuality on video chats. ​

Bubble tea shops packaged their existing stocks to clear for home use, paving the way for entrepreneurs to get in on the bubble tea action by ensuring consistent quality premix suitable for hipsters-at-home.​



While there is no cure for COVID-19 and in preparation for new viruses of the future, people look to enhance their natural  immunity to have the best chance of survival. Concepts like herd immunity peaked online searches about immunity.

The concept of ‘you are what you eat’ has origins from the 1800’s but only became popular in the 1960’s to represent healthy eating through macrobiotic wholefoods. Since then, science has taught us that immunity is boosted by macro and micro nutrients from daily meals – protein, fibre (prebiotics), probiotics and antioxidants. Everyday food and beverages that emphasize immunity-boosting elements will be able to leverage this opportunity and we highlight some examples here.


Yoghurt is a dominant dietary source of probiotics across markets today. By making it higher in protein, lower in fat and sugar, and adding fibre, this health-giving food delivers additional benefits to consumers.

•        The combined use of prebiotic fibre and probiotic have been shown to give more holistic stimulation of gut immune cells.

•        The use of plant-based protein helps target flexitarians who seek to rebalance their dietary intake from animal and plants. 

Milk Alternatives

Protein is vital for the body to build and repair itself, where in fact antibodies rely on protein and insufficient protein may lead to symptoms of weakness, fatigue and poor immunity.1 In the wake of COVID-19, the awareness of protein levels in diets will increase.

Many reports had referred to Millennials driving the growth of milk alternatives.2 Now, the spotlight may be shared by seniors in markets where lactose intolerance is common, due to the increasing difficulty to digest meats with the onset of age.


Teas such as green tea, white tea and black tea are all rich in anti-oxidants called Polyphenols that protect the body against potential viruses, infections and sickness3.

Apart from traditional style of tea, tea drinks have transformed to capture consumers’ taste for indulgence through sweetened blends of tea with fruits or milk. Stevia leaf extract presents an opportunity to assuage the addiction to sugar, tilting the balance towards health.


A diet rich in fibre is essential for promoting overall health and immunity. The popularity of sourdough – touted for its health benefits – rose rapidly in Asia with retail launches +13% annually 2014-2019 and a vibrant representation in food service.4 In light of COVID-19, consumers will pay closer attention to what they eat for health.  With nutritious products in the spotlight, daily staples like bread can add power ingredients through seeds.  Whether it’s classic slices with a twist or rustic bread, topping baked products with these ingredients offer greater nutrition such as fibre while looking wholesome. 

Flavored Bottled Water (& Fermented drinks: Kombucha, vinegar drinks)

Water is essential for life, many essential body functions rely on water including the immune system.  During COVID-19, the search volume of key words "drinking water" + "immunity” spiked on Baidu but drinking plain water can be boring.5 Over recent years home infusions rose in popularity before manufacturers caught on with flavoured water and fermented drinks with unique flavours (Moscow Mule cocktail, boabab), functional claims (probiotic, immune boosting, added protein and fibre, adaptogens, nootropics) and texture (sparkling).


From miso to tempeh or kimchi to curd, Asia has a strong tradition of fermented foods. In recent years, there is growing awareness and desire to include fermented products in the diet for natural probiotic benefits to boost immunity. Riding the wave of immunity consciousness after COVID-19, there is opportunity to reimagine sauce category – a bold new fermented sauce that is the go-to ingredient for homecooked meals, as a dip or condiment. Fusion has been a trend in sauces and we are looking out for cross cultural blend of fermented goodness.


The elderly group was identified as high risk during COVID-19 due to their weakened immunity.6 While antioxidants and probiotics may work for younger populations, this group may do well by returning to protein as a basic building block of the body’s natural immune system. With eating and digesting meat becoming more difficult with age, timely innovation in staples like noodles to deliver more protein will allow this comfort food to bring more benefit.

4. Innova Market Insights
5. Baidu Index
6. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). World Population Prospects 2019

COVID-19 has created a state of emergency for the mental wellbeing in society. People staying at home for extended amounts of time, with disrupted social connections, juggling children with work and worrying about the virus experience tension which is unhealthy on a prolonged basis. People on the frontlines providing medical care or enforcing movement restrictions have feedback burnout, compassion fatigue and trauma.

Consumers will thus be looking for ways to actively manage their mental stress and stay calm.  Here are some ideas to discuss with our customers.

Milk Alternatives

As COVID-19 heightens fear about animal-based products – virus, medication and hormones – plant based alternatives have come into the spotlight due to their clean and safe position.  The trend towards vegetarian or flexitarian diets was gaining momentum before COVID-19 and looks set to grow.

Ingredion has just entered a commercial agreement to distribute Quinoa flour and pregel flour globally. Nutritious quinoa is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids needed, high in fibre, with Calcium, Iron, Folate and vitamin Bs.


Practicing self care is important to relieve feelings of anxiety. Getting quality sleep is one of the best ways to treat yourself. It’s been recommended that we keep to a normal bedtime every night. But did you know that the type of food we eat before going to bed affects our quality of sleep?  Taking sugary foods right before bedtime is linked to restless and disrupted sleep. Hence, reaching for sweet desserts like cakes as late night snacks may not be the best choice if you’re after a deep sleep. 

Sweet biscuits

Being confined at home is actually the perfect moment to organize family activities together with kids.  During this time, it's important for children to remain physically and mentally active to avoid becoming anxious, bored and sedentary.  Whether they are bonding over video games, gardening or arts and crafts projects, it's never complete without a few nibbles. Kids certainly won't say to indulgent biscuits while having fun. Treats that come in small, bite-sized packs are perfect so as not to overindulge.

Vitamin drinks

Vitamins and minerals help the body cope with anxiety, and vitaminized drinks will appeal to the masses during and after the stress of COVID-19 being a more natural and gentle than popping pills. The drinking experience will be mild with less intense sugar peaks.

•       Vitamin B1 helps to balance blood sugar levels, Vitamin B5 supports the adrenal glands1 and Vitamin C help to reduce anxiety2

•       Sweetened with only natural Stevia

Processed Seafood

With gyms and fitness studios temporarily closed, some people attempt to preserve a sense of normalcy through home exercises.  Thanks to the rising number of virtual at-home workout options, staying physically active with Pilates, spinning classes, or even bodyweights is no longer far fetched.  Eating foods with protein such as tuna after your exercise may help in building new muscles and also prevent breakdown of existing ones.  That’s optimizing muscle health.

RTD Asian tea

Traditional Chinese medicine explain how body “heat” leads to stress, and prescribes “cooling” foods to restore balance. Herbs, such as chamomile, chrysanthemum, jasmine are commonly used for calming and reducing stress-related insomnia, anxiety or anger.3 These ingredients are traditionally mixed with tea or steeped in water as a “tea”. 

The idea of balance is found in other traditional Asian health philosophies as well. In tropical regions like Southeast Asia and India, the bitter astringency of tea is balanced with sugar to provide refreshment in warm humid climates. Natural sweeteners are the solution to keep them naturally healthy.



COVID-19 has brought the world into uncharted waters. Social distancing, quarantines and working-from-home bring profound changes to normal routines for people of all ages and walks of life. Day and night, weekday and weekend blend into each other, people need activity makers to demarcate zones and mentally transition between them.  This is how snacking plays a role.  Here are some ideas how snacking can create highlights through the day:

Sugar confectionery

When kids are not in the mood for play time, snacking could be the next activity to keep boredom at bay. Fruits or vegetables are ideal but small doses of sweets such as gummies can be a smarter option. Typically fortified with vitamins and minerals, gelatine-free or lower in sugar,  differentiating these popular treats with a soft, mochi-like texture keeps it fun and more suited for younger kids. Premium sweets like these may become a big hit – perhaps not only among kids but with adults too. 

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are traditional snacks eaten while chatting with family and friends.  The resounding crunch gives it license to snack on them whenever boredom hits.1  With consumers looking for crunch and indulgence from snacks they eat, upgrading to coated nuts fits in both attributes. They may not only appeal among nostalgic adults but can also cater to a new and younger group of consumers in the future.

Ice cream

Enjoying ice cream are little luxurious moments in their own right. And it is possible to heighten the experience with textural experimentation, blending creamy and smooth with chewy mochi in each bite. Picking up ice cream by its fluffy body to nibble in hand creates more playful eating as well. 

Salty snacks

The lack of social interaction could be a big deal. For some, not being able to meet with friends or with activities restricted could mean serious boredom. When people binge on a Netflix series or missed programs to kill time, self-indulging on salty snacks such as chips will also seem to be moment-appropriate.  With about 40% of Asian consumers saying they are unhealthy,  it is an opportunity to offer unique and tasty products that are also better-for-you.2  Through pulses, chips get an instant revamp: unique in texture, natural in image and also a better option for a millennial’s lifestyle. 

Sparkling coffee

Conversations flow over coffee with friends and with self- or government imposed movement restrictions in place, consumers may look to experiment more with their java at home to bring a spark to their day. The fourth wave of coffee brought along the sense of exploration that produced hybrids between coffee and other beverage categories. Sparkling coffee marries coffee and soda beverages to give a caffeine kick that is thirst quenching and fun at the same time.


1. Snack Attack, Why We Love a Good Snack, Biting into the Indian Snacking Market, World: Consumers snack with health, functionality in mind​

2. Innova Market Insights



With external uncertainties still abound, individuals focus their thoughts inward for a sense of stability. Investing in time for self will continue to be important as a way to restore and recharge.  In addition to relaxing with music or a book, here are some ideas to make me moments more enjoyable.

Cakes and Pastries

When dropping by a quiet café used to be your sanctuary for a good read, indulging to these café-style whims is still possible during this time. Spending a weekend afternoon on your balcony with a glass of cold brewed coffee with an array of choux pastries and luscious cakes? Reading moments can still be as relaxing and enjoyable even with a recreated experience.

Crackers and Biscuits

After a long work week, some people get quiet enjoyment over a glass of wine. Sipping solo on a Pinot Noir is  the perfect complement to other not-so-guilty pleasures: watching bad TV, ordering in dinner or even enjoying various types of cheeses with crackers. With a mild pastry-like taste, light crackers can pair well with a good drink. And not forgetting artisan tea lovers, no brew is complete without biscuits. From here, start to decompress and recharge your body and mind.

Pudding dessert

The ability to take time for yourself is a luxury especially when the hustle and bustle starts again. What better way to enjoy it than with a luxurious pudding – light but creamy, rich, and smooth. In a variety of flavours to fit your mood or outfit, it goes perfectly with your wonderful lazy weekend.

No/Low % Alcoholic Beverage

Learning from intoxicated pitfalls of earlier generations, young consumers are avoiding to lose control because social media is always-on. They may eschew alcohol1 but are still intent on having a great time, driving growth of low and non-alcoholic beverages. Sugar reduction choices give consumers more options to delight their mood without guilt.



‘Cash is king’ when it comes to business and with no clear path out of this economic downturn, many customers are looking for ideas to save costs. The classic approach looks within the product recipe – replacing commodities or enhancing the perception of quality to consumers. Newer approaches take a holistic view of costs (raw materials, manufacturing, distribution etc), address business pains like product write-off, and even deconstruct how to address consumer needs such as the below:

Shelf Life Extension

Processed meat is a staple food in many households. When kept chilled, water eventually seeps out and also may affect the product's color.  Shoppers may find this off putting to buy and when it happens at home, the chances of  throwing meat  away are high although it is still edible.  By extending shelf life through quality, food waste is reduced while benefiting manufacturers with lesser stocks to return. Using processed meat as an example, there are other opportunities from various applications to be explored. ​

Processed Cheese

Cheese is a key element in dishes like pizza and lasagne which APAC consumers are getting more familiar with, even starting to make at home. Improved functionality and reduced costs encourage consumers to use more cheese.


With global supply disruptions, prices of staple foods or essentials such as eggs are expected to fluctuate in the future. For manufacturers, this could spell increasing their product costs passed to consumers.  To manage volatility, reformulating with ingredients that are safe yet achieves similar or even better texture could be a win-win situation for both sides. ​


From artisanal coffees to soups, seasonings and delectable desserts — the popularity of non-dairy creamers (NDC) and sweetened condensed creamers (SCC) has grown as a convenient way to add creaminess and balance overall taste. ​The natural emulsification provided by sodium caseinate drives the creaminess and cost, and removing it would result in oiling in coffee drinks. Replace sodium caseinate successfully will require excellent emulsion stability and encapsulating ability.​

COVID-19 Ingredion Regional Insights Series
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