Thailand Food Industry: Context, Regulation and Market Trends
Updated: Apr 30
Long known as “the kitchen of the world”, Thailand is one of the world's largest net food-exporting countries. The food industry represents about 23% of the country's GDP. Taking advantage of its geography with abundant local agricultural resources, the Thai government has named the food industry as one of the top ten growth engines in line with the "Thailand 4.0" business model. Plus, with the emerging trend in Thailand for healthy food, Thai food products have received a lot of attention in foreign countries.
By implementing the 4.0 strategy, The Thai government is attempting to position Thailand as a hub for food research, innovation and development, and tax relief to food innovation startups which are set to increase over the coming years. The government also created the Food Optimized Industrial Park, known as Food Innopolis.
Evolution of the Thai Strategy in the past 60 years
The four objective of the 4.0 strategy are:
1. Economic Prosperity to create a value-based economy that is driven by innovation, technology and creativity aiming to increase Research and Development.
2. Social Well-being to create an inclusive society. Between others objective, the government want to transform traditional farmers into “Smart Farmers”
3. Raising Human Values to transform Thais into “Competent human beings”
4. Environmental Protection to become a livable society with a sustainable economic system focusing on low-carbon society and Smart cities.
Although, it is difficult to assess the impact of this new policy, the industrial boom in High Tech and Food Research is already converting Thailand into an attractive market.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a sub department of the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), supervises all food regulation matters in Thailand. All food products are mainly regulated by the Food Act B.E. 2522 (1979), which provides the government the control of domestic production, imports and exports of food products for sale, as well as provide the criteria and penalties for food business in the country.
MARKET TRENDS: TECHNOLOGICAL BOOM AND HEALTHY FOOD
New technologies and innovation including digitalization (the use of platforms and applications) play a major role in changing consumers’ behavior among the past few years. Therefore, the food industry must adapt to cope with those technological changes. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly transformed the food business. As the restaurants are closed, the number of ghost kitchens and mobile kitchens has increased significantly. The food market has seen online platforms take hold and the delivery system has grown by 85%.
Moreover, in view of the continuing pandemic, consumers are paying more and more attention to their health and therefore the healthy food sector is developing dazzlingly. The food industry must then turn to new trends to meet consumer demand: alternative proteins, low sugars, healthy prepared meals, locally produced food are the new challenges for this industry. Struggling economy also pushes consumers to change their behavior. Purchasing decision becomes more logical and less emotional.
The food trends in Thailand in 2021 will largely be a continuation of trends seen in 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of several food trends in Thailand, especially ones relating to health and sustainability. Accordingly, Thai food startups also are the group that has invested the most in the current healthy trend in Thailand 2020, accounting for 14% of the investment.
Although Thai products are very potential in the world market, there is still a problem with the logistics system to bring the products to sell abroad especially food products are in demand in many neighboring markets such as Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar including China also have a variety of Thai products for sale in supermarkets.
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