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How total wellbeing and plastic pollution will shape the APAC consumer market in 2019 and beyond

In the years ahead, the consumer landscape in the Asia Pacific will evolve like never before, driven particularly by themes of privacy, individuality, wellness, convenience, and connectivity. Here, we discuss two trends that Mintel have predicted will shape the region’s consumer market: ‘Total Wellbeing’ and ‘Rethink Plastic’. 
 
Total Wellbeing

Consumers are treating their bodies like an ecosystem and seeking solutions that complement their personal health and evolving needs.  
 
APAC is a region known for its high-stress rates that are a result of many things combined—work, living conditions, and fast-paced lifestyles, among others. This is encouraging consumers to embrace lifestyles, products and new alternatives that help them in achieving more balanced health solutions.  
 
Alternative medicine the likes of traditional Asian ingredients, as well as healing practices, are today, becoming popularised. Meanwhile, new products and body-tracking technology supported by scientific proof are offering consumers tailored solutions based on their individual needs. These solutions are allowing people to attain a new level of lifestyle that’s driven by health and wellness. This is especially so among consumers who increasingly want a more comfortable environment, whether at home or at work, to help in enhancing both their physical and mental wellbeing.  
 
In fact, consumers are looking for ways to improve their personal health and wellness goals via a range of activities. This includes focusing on improving their energy levels, adjusting their daily meals or engaging in various forms of activity. Mintel research reveals that 41% of urban Indonesian consumers plan to take steps to increase their energy levels, be it through taking supplements, getting more rest, or eating healthier, while half of the Japanese consumers say that getting enough sleep is important and they are looking for ways to achieve this. In China, 32% of urban Chinese consumers are spending more on fitness enhancing health supplements.  
 
Mental health is also an aspect that consumers in the APAC are looking to improve given the high-stress environment that we are in today. They are engaging in activities such as meditation and yoga, as well as measuring their stress, rest and energy levels, to complement their overall wellness plans. Indeed, 33% of urban Thai consumers say that they will engage in meditation and similar activities to quiet their minds and 42% of Japanese consumers think that maintaining a positive mind-set is important in achieving a healthy lifestyle.  
 
Consumers are becoming more informed as they acquire a new, deeper understanding of human biology, combined with the latest in digital technology. Empowered by this information, consumers will change their lifestyles, the products they consume and the services they seek, to better suit their bodies’ individual needs.  
 
And this is where customisation can play a part. Personalisation is growing in popularity among consumers and will play a major role for new categories moving ahead with this trend; 71% of urban Indonesians and 43% of urban Australians say that they’d like the option to personalise their food options. For one, the use of fitness apps can offer health-focused consumers a way to personalise their food, fitness activity and wellness regime.  

Brands will need to keep up with consumers’ understanding of variances in human biome health, nutritional needs and body cycle changes over time and with age. From this, brands can offer variance in products and services, allowing people the best option for their need. The region’s pool of digitally enabled smart consumers will rapidly come to demand that flexibility, creating opportunities for brands who cleave to the forefront of such technologies, and challenges for those failing to keep up.  
 
Rethink Plastic

Plastic is not inherently bad, but the throwaway culture of it is. Consumers are reviewing their own behaviours to prevent plastic pollution.  
 
APAC is home to some of the world’s biggest plastic-polluting countries—China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, among others—an issue that is under major scrutiny today. Awareness of the harm single-use plastics have on the planet is creating a new consumer demand for non-plastic alternatives.  
 
Rising affluence and education are the main drivers behind this movement. In fact, a third of Indian consumers often reuse packaging such as plastic bags and containers and 32% of urban Australians prefer products sold in eco-friendly packaging.  
 
Brands should be reviewing alternatives that can potentially replace plastic usage in accordance with consumer demand. The desire to do their part for the environment is hampered by the lack of alternatives in the marketplace. While more scientific and technological breakthroughs are needed to resolve the issue of plastic waste, it is essential that consumers become more aware of the role they play.  
 
To encourage good habits, brands and companies can also consider rolling out incentive programmes to motivate consumers who are on the fence when it comes to environmental conservation.  
 
The rise of conscious consumers has pushed brands to address various environmental issues. From earning a positive brand image to improving sustainability, companies and brands can definitely benefit from going green.  
 
Government bodies, companies and brands in APAC are already actively playing a significant role in providing solutions to plastic waste. China, for one, had been importing plastic waste for 28 years before announcing in 2017 that it would stop taking in contaminated plastics. This is a strong indication of the government’s commitment to reducing plastic pollution in the country. However, these changes are not happening fast enough. 
 
Forward-looking brands must go beyond simply complying with government regulations by taking the initiative to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. Banning single-use plastics is the first step, but change must come in a more revolutionary manner, such as redesigning products and finding better biodegradable materials, to truly make an impact.  
 
By promoting plastic-conscious consumption, brands can work together with consumers to adopt and inculcate better habits in their daily lives, towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle and environment.  
 
An issue that affects all sectors of the consumer market, brands that don’t partake in the move away from unnecessary plastic use could find themselves on the wrong side of new regulation and shunned by ‘green’ consumers. As a matter of fact, a third of Chinese consumers who follow luxury brands on social media also said that they wish to see content about the brand’s environmentally friendly behaviours. As such, brands and companies that take serious steps in implementing positive solutions will get the most attention from consumers in the years ahead.  
 
Matthew Crabbe is the regional trends director for Asia Pacific at Mintel

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