More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2023

Thai consumers are increasingly weighing the mental-health benefits of food and beverage products in their purchasing decisions, an analyst for the Thai unit of global market research firm Mintel told a recent workshop.

Rashmika Khanijou, Mintel (Thailand) food and drink research analyst, put the new trend down to the pandemic, saying it caused consumers to do more than prioritise their physical health.

It made them put more importance on mental health too. This is a global trend, she said, one that extends beyond the food and beverage industry, she said.

Thai consumers are exploring food and beverage options that can improve their mental health, Khanijou told the workshop “Supporting Mental Health through Food and Drinks” at the Thaifex Anuga Asia 2023.

It is the region’s largest food and beverage trade show. The workshop on May 23 was part of the trade show’s “Future Food Experience” forum highlighting emerging trends.

Rashmika Khanijou

Khanijou encouraged Thai food and beverage manufacturers to highlight the scientific evidence that makes their products nutritious and soothing to expand demand and add value.

"We are in an era of functional indulgence where what we eat must raise our spirits, improve our mood or at the very least convince us that we are having a good time," Khanijou said.

Research by Mintel published last year said one in every seven Thai consumers suffers from a mental-health condition, such as stress, insomnia, anxiety, loneliness, lack of confidence, or burnout.

As a result, Thai consumers are increasingly seeking brands that offer comfort and a breather from daily stress.

More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

A more recent report, “Food and Drinks for Mental Wellness – Thai Consumer – 2023”, found that only 16% of those surveyed described their mental wellness in the previous six months as "very good". Nearly half, 49%, described it as “good”, 22% said it was “fair” and 13% described it as either “poor” or “very poor”.

Although Thais of all ages are looking for ways to alleviate stress, Khanijou said her research identified generational distinctions.


More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

Comfort food

Mintel's study found about half of Thai consumers (51%) were seeking ways to reduce stress, and that comfort food was a major method. The study found that 46% of respondents turned to comfort food to improve their mood during the six months before they were interviewed, while 42% snacked in between meals to feel better.

Thais under the age of 25, so-called Generation Z, are the least likely to describe their mental state as "good" because the isolation induced by lock downs during the pandemic stunted their social skills and made them more sensitive to uncertainty. This has resulted in a high level of loneliness among a generation where socialising is not only a priority but a need.

Khanijou said her research found two distinct demographic trends.

Generation X, those aged 42 to 57, and older millennials, aged 33-41, believe consuming food and beverages can improve mental health. She referred to this group as "holistic nutrition seekers."

They are driving the demand for foods and beverages that they believe may alleviate physical and mental health issues associated with aging.

The second group – Generation Z and younger millennials (25-32) – are drawn to food and beverage brands that reflect their lifestyles and emphasise mental wellness as a key selling point. She referred to this group as “Emotional Indulgers”.

More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

"Gen Z and [younger] millennials rely on experiences with a sentimental value in order to enhance their minds. They are more likely to consume comfort food and snacks between meals to de-stress," she said.

“Mind snacks”

Khanijou said her research found that 31% of Thais agreed that a wider variety of snacks for mental wellness was appealing, indicating a growing market for what she referred to as "mind snacks”.

More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

Food and beverage producers who are alert to shifts in consumers’ state of mind can find new ways to grow in an industry where competition is fierce. Insights into the state of mind of consumers can help producers make their brand distinctive, Khanijou said.

She gave a specific example, saying stress can cause people to grind their teeth while sleeping. This creates an opportunity for crunchy snacks of various textures which can reduce sore jaws caused by teeth grinding.

More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

Younger Thai women prefer comfort foods high in fat, sugar or energy density, Khanijou said. These foods may have low nutritional value but they can also trigger the release of dopamine, which contributes to feelings of pleasure.

All brands “need to do to stay at the forefront of the industry is to produce food and beverages that provide flavour, aroma, texture, and health attributes that consumers associate with mental health," Khanijou said.

The link between diet and emotional state has been studied in-depth, and there is rising evidence that certain ingredients affect consumers’ moods.

Dietary fibre can promote healthy ageing, while high-fibre foods have been shown to improve moods, she explained.

More Thai consumers are demanding ‘mind snacks’, researcher says

Brands that offer relaxation and stress-relief claims appeal to 77% of Thais, she said. Most Thai consumers are looking for more food and beverage products that will help them stay alert and sleep well, she said.

Khanijou urged brands to be mindful of the health benefits they claim their products offer. These need to be backed up with scientific evidence, she said.

She also said messaging from brands to consumers must be short and sweet: "Keep the message simple and make it powerful."