Koelnmesse’s entry point to South-East Asia

If rapid population growth and mass urbanisation are a sign of what’s to come, some of the world’s smallest coffee markets could one day be among the largest. With consumption growth averaging between 10 and 15 per cent since 2012, it’s no wonder US café chains like Starbucks are looking toward South-East Asia for expansion. “The coffee industry in South-East Asia has been incredibly dynamic in the past few years,” says Victor Mah, President of the ASEAN Coffee Federation and Singapore Coffee Association. “Driven by changing demographics in the region, rising incomes and increasing awareness of the origins of food and beverages, countries like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have experienced tremendous growth in coffee consumption. With such impressive statistics, it seems like South-East Asia, in general, is set to continue experiencing remarkable developments in the coffee industry for many years to come.” But while Western and European influences may inspire a growing taste for espresso-based beverages, home-grown coffee companies are holding their own against major US rivals and bringing their own spin to the world of specialty coffee. According to a 2015 analysis by Nikkei Research, Trung Nguyen Coffee was the dominant force in Vietnam with 2500 locations, while Café Amazon and Blue Cup Coffee were mainstays in Thailand with more than 1292 and 240 locations respectively, compared to Starbucks’ 240 stores. Several local chains are also breaking into neighbouring countries thanks to the creation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community, which facilitates business across the region. This sense of innovation and opportunity was captured at the THAIFEX-World of Food Asia in Bangkok from May 31 to June 4, 2017. The event gathered more than 55,000 industry professionals at the leading annual international trade exhibition for food and beverages, food technology, retail and franchise in ASEAN. Leveraging Thailand’s position as a hub for regional connectivity, delegates had a unique opportunity to network and get an exclusive glimpse at upcoming trends in food production technologies, food safety standards, and culinary service. The five-day event also featured more than 2,000 exhibitors from 40 countries. “Being in the heart of the ASEAN region provides our exhibitors with unparalleled access to emerging markets in Indochina, especially Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar,” says Mathias Kuepper, Managing Director at Koelnmesse. THAIFEX-World of Food Asia is co-organised by Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion at the Ministry of Commerce, the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Koelnmesse. Koelnmesse is a trade fair organiser in the food industry and related sectors, responsible for establishing world-renowned events including Anuga, the International Sweets & Biscuits Fair and Anuga Food Tec. As coffee consumption increases throughout the Asia-Pacific, innovation is vital as consumers continue to steer toward quality and new ideas about how to enjoy their morning beverage. The World of Coffee and Tea portion of THAIFEX provides an ideal forum for innovators and influencers to share valuable insight on the rapidly evolving nature of the industry. “Asians’ coffee drinking has changed drastically in the past two decades and has evolved to become a lifestyle choice for much of the region,” says Mah. “With this rapid growth in demand for coffee, there is a need to ensure that quality is met. The World of Coffee and Tea allows like-minded individuals in the industry to connect, exchange ideas and spark innovation.” While its numbers are relatively small compared to Café Amazon, Thailand is one of Starbucks’ most successful regions in South-East Asia, serving 3.5 million cups of coffee every month. The company aims to have 400 stores in the country by 2019. “One of the key factors is that an increasing number of consumers are becoming more sophisticated about coffee,” says Murray Darling, Managing Director for Starbucks Thailand and Singapore. “Many want to know about the origins of coffee, roasting processes, brewing and crafting methods and more. This has been largely responsible for driving the rapid growth of the industry.” A healthy economy usually translates into disposable income, which Mah believes is good news for coffee retailers that have a third-wave coffee offer. “Steady economic development in the region has enabled this lifestyle in the first place by providing consumers with the purchasing power to partake in such niche patterns of consumption,” he says. “And of course, supported by the ASEAN Economic Community, greater regional cooperation is also spurring the growth of the industry with the increased fluidity in the transfer of goods and services across borders. “THAIFEX-World of Food Asia is thus the perfect platform to champion coffee consumption in the region since it is strategically located in Thailand, the hub for regional connectivity and key market in the AEC.” There is little doubt coffee consumption is rapidly evolving in South-East Asia, with traditional and specialty coffee ideas co-existing and giving rise to new trends and competition. With the third-wave coffee sector deeply rooted in innovation and unique experiences, creativity and sophistication are responsibilities embodied by the modern barista. THAIFEX treated delegates to an all-star barista cast with its third annual Celebrity Coffee Bar, led by Dawn Chan, a two-time winner of the Hong Kong Barista Championship and owner of The Cupping Room. He was joined by Caleb Cha, WCE Certified Judge and 2015 World Latte Art Champion, and Ryan Wibawa, 2015 Indonesian Brewers Cup Champion and Starbucks barista for nearly four years. Several other expert coffee slingers shared their passion, experience and trade secrets at the event.
National champions were on hand to give aspiring baristas insight about the road to competition at the 2017 World Barista Championships in Seoul, South Korea in November. THAIFEX delegates looking to improve their own coffee-making skills also had access to the pros through various instructional sessions on brewing and espresso methods, latte art techniques, coffee tasting, cupping and quality assurance. Baristas could even try their skill at a paper cup latte art throw-down competition. With national coffee brewing and barista championships pushing the standards for excellence and skill in the cup, baristas are playing a large role in fueling interest in a better brew. Mah believes, as consumer palettes become more educated, demand for specialty coffee will likely become more specific with local trends influencing specific flavour profiles. “Flavour profiles are constantly changing,” he says. “The current trend is that many ASEAN independent coffee houses prefer to tout beans hailing from Ethiopia, Brazil and Panama because they present more recognisable flavours such as caramel sweetness and nutty undertones. Having said that, many consumers still tend to prefer Asian flavours like Indonesian and Vietnamese coffees that are full bodied and have more mellowed acidity.” For customers, an important part of the café experience, great food along with a creative coffee menu. With Innova Market Insights, THAIFEX identified key industry trends for 2017, highlighting a sustained interest in veganism and vegetarianism and an increased interest in organic foods. In Asia-Pacific alone, it is expected to grow with an average growth rate of 14.81 per cent through 2022. The large-scale exhibition also gave Thai food and beverage entrepreneurs and SMEs a chance to showcase the very best of local cuisine from the “Kitchen of the World”. GCR

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