Thai Future Food: Innovating for Health and the Environment

Future Food is a rapidly growing trend driven by health and environmental concerns, with a rising demand for safe, nutritious, traceable and eco-friendly food options.

Thailand’s Future Food market is dominated by Functional Food, with exports valued at more than $3.7 billion, and catering to health-conscious consumers.

Campaigns like “Wen-Day on Wednesday” drive health, sustainability and growth in Thailand’s future food industry through diverse, accessible and safe food options.

Future Food is a rising trend in the global food industry, driven by concerns over health and environmental issues. Increasingly, people worldwide are prioritising their well-being and the planet, leading to a growing demand for safe, nutritious, traceable and eco-friendly food options.

In Thailand, Future Food is currently classified into four distinct groups: Functional, Medical, Novel and Organic Food. However, to better align with the dynamic landscape, the Thai Future Food Trade Association is actively collaborating with relevant entities, such as the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), food-related institutes and entrepreneurs to redefine the categorisation of Future Food in line with evolving market conditions and industry trends.

Functional food products, such as yoghurt, kombucha and alternative protein, hold a dominant position in the market, constituting 97% of Thai Future Food. This segment caters specifically to health-conscious consumers and has witnessed remarkable growth, with annual export value exceeding $3.7 billion over the past decade.

“Most people consume excessive carbohydrates, receive inadequate protein and may develop various diseases if they consume excessive animal meat, which contains high levels of fat. Alternative proteins derived from plants and insects offer numerous advantages, including high protein content, efficient land use, short production cycles and minimal environmental impact,” says Visit Limlurcha, President of the Thai Future Food Trade Association.

Thailand, known as The Kitchen of the World, has significant potential in the Future Food industry. With unique offerings like plant-based Thai food and popular functional drinks sweetened with a variety of sweeteners, Thai entrepreneurs can manufacture sustainable products that cater to health-conscious consumers.

Thailand’s Novel Food segment focuses on insect rearing, providing alternative protein sources. The country has attracted investment from Israel for fruit fly larvae production, partnering with Thai Union. Thailand strives for innovation, technology advancement and foreign investment to enhance the Future Food sector.

Thailand’s high-quality raw materials enable the production of distinctive future food products with diverse nutritional value and health benefits. Promising raw materials include banana blossoms, young jackfruit, hemp, mung bean, split gill mushroom, wolffia and algae. Research is underway to enhance their nutritional value, while Thai insects are being studied for isolated protein extraction, suitable for incorporation into various food products.

The flexitarian market segment demonstrates significant potential for expansion, driven by an increase in individuals who primarily follow a vegetarian diet but occasionally consume meat or fish. To tap into this market, the Thai Future Food Trade Association has launched campaigns like “Wen-Day on Wednesday” (Abstaining on Wednesdays). The campaign promotes plant- and insect-based, organic and functional alternatives over meat and chemicals, advocating good health, freshness, and environmental sustainability. By promoting a diverse, easily accessible and safe range of future food options from multiple brands, and encouraging their consumption once a week, the campaign contributes to Thailand’s flourishing future food industry.

The Thai Future Food Trade Association strategically leverages this campaign to propel the future of Thai food, not only within the country, but also on the global stage. Aligned with the vision for a safe, sustainable and resilient food industry in Thailand, the campaign serves as a catalyst for promoting and advancing Thai cuisine. With a comprehensive focus on economic prosperity, social well-being and environmental sustainability, the Association strives to ensure that the future of Thai food encompasses all these essential aspects.

Words by: Pattareeya Puapongsakorn

Photo courtesy of Thai Future Food Trade Association