2020 was marked the most dynamic year for Asia with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the whole, FMCG growth was flat (-0.1%) in 2020 compared with 8% growth in 2019. When broken down by country, most Southeast Asian markets experienced a significant decline with Singapore being an exception recording the highest growth of 15.5%. Northeast Asian markets saw a lower but reasonable growth with China recording 3.1%. India experienced an unprecedented 40% decline in April’2020 due to mass store closures, which bounced back to 2019 levels of 8% towards the year end recording a balanced -1.9% growth.
Local, mainstream, innovative products driving sales
According to NielsenIQ, 62% of FMCG sales in Asia come from local brands. The company’s recent survey shows that Asians prefer buying local to support their country’s brands (49%), and because local is better priced (49%), more fresh (44%) and more trustworthy (41%). In fact, figures prove local brands are not only winning but growing as they account for 60.1% in 2018, 61% in 2019 and 61.7% in 2020 in Asia FMCG sales.
Also, the mainstream price tier is still dominating in Asia. It accounts for 55.7% of total FMCG sales in 2020, which has constantly grown from 54.5% in 2018 and 55% in 2019. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that 28% of FMCG sales come from premium price tiers. Premiumisation is a key focus area considering Asia’s fast growing middle class and 71% of Asian consumers are willing to pay more for a new product and 53% choose multinational brands for better quality.
Additionally, NielsenIQ study highlights that 80% of FMCG sales are from small players. With 300k brands operating across Asia, 80% of total sales come from brands ranked outside the top 20 in their categories. This tendency is well shown in the company’s recent survey where 82% of Asian consumers claim that they want to try new products.
Changing factors when deciding where, how and what to shop
In the past, consumers decided on where to shop based on store sizes or specific products. Now, channels are becoming homogeneous as more and more Asian consumers are choosing where to shop based on value for money (95%), low prices (75%), safety and hygiene (67%), wide product selection (67%), fresh products (63%) and convenience in location (62%). Also, though traditional channels are still dominant online is where growth is. Online hyper/supermarket ranked no.1 for Asian consumers when asked where they planned to shop more. 31% state that they want to buy new products only online.
Innovation and affordability remain key factors for Asian consumers when choosing what to purchase. 35% of consumers strongly want to buy new products in 2021 whereas 73% want larger economical packs with lower price per volume and 56% want smaller packs at lower price points.
Five key trends to come in 2021
NielsenIQ identified five key trends that will grow in 2021 – Convenience, Homebound, Alternative, Natural and Blends. 62% of Asians state convenient location is a top reason to choose where to shop and with the lockdown and restricted movement, 76% claim services should offer more flexible options for my lifestyle at home.
Also, with the rising concern for health and environment, 69% of Asian consumers would switch to an eco-friendly brand with the same price and quality while 72% answer naturally-produced products are more important to them than 3 years ago. Lastly, as more and more consumers desire “new experiences”, 73% claim that they want to buy new products but from brands that are familiar to them.
“2020 was a challenging year with most Asian markets experiencing a decline or lower growth in FMCG. We believe the pace will pick up and normalize this year though as consumer and business confidence rebounds,” comments Justin Sargent, President of Retail Intelligence, NielsenIQ Asia.