Horizons #66: Asia’s WOW factor

03 March, 2022

by Professor Ross Kingwell, AEGIC Chief Economist

Over the next decade and beyond Asia’s population will experience key changes (a WOW factor) that will boost market opportunities for Australian grains.

What is Asia’s WOW factor that will affect market opportunities for Australian grains?

It’s simply that Asian populations are becoming wealthier, older; and the combination of age and wealth seems to be generating wiser consumption.

So, the WOW factor is consumers becoming wealthier, older and wiser.


By 2030, three billion people, or 70 percent of Asia’s total population, are likely to be part of the consuming class (see chart) — a billion more than in 2021 and 2.5 billion more than back in 2000. In Indonesia, close to 200 million people may enter the consuming class by 2030, up from 120 million today. In India, the 2030 figure may be close to 825 million, up from around 340 million today.

As incomes rise, greater expenditure on food products occurs. Often meat and dairy product consumption increases; and environmental concerns begin to influence some consumption choices. Importantly, the main meats consumed in Asia, poultry and pork, are increasingly underpinned by grain-feeding as is dairying.


Source: Market Pro by World Data Lab; McKinsey Global Institute analysis


The average size of households in most Asian countries is declining. Over the last 20 years the size of households has shrunk in Indonesia and China by 10 percent and almost 30 percent respectively. Almost one-third of households in advanced Asian economies and more than 15 percent of households in China are already single-persons. In these households, social media use, home food delivery, smaller packaged food portions and solo dining are all on the rise. The impact on trends in food packaging are already emerging. In Japan, the average net weight of several fast-moving consumer goods has decreased, including an 8 percent decline in the size of butter packets and as much as a 25 percent decline in the size of instant coffee jars.

The population of Asian seniors, defined as individuals 60 and over, is expected to grow by around 40 percent over the next decade, from 575 million to more than 800 million. Consumption by seniors often focuses more on the health advantages of foodstuffs. Hence, healthy grains like oats and barley and greater use of wholegrains, with proven health benefits regarding gut health and reducing the risk of diabetes, will likely feature more in food products tailored to the Asian palate. Ready-made meals for single households, working women and households of seniors will become commonplace. For example, Oisix in Japan offers a meal kit for preparing dinner rapidly, and it has experienced robust year-on-year growth since 2018.

The banner image to this blog post, taken in Japan, shows premium white bread being sold in packages of as few as two or three individual slices.


Consumers in Asia are increasingly eco-conscious. McKinsey reports recent consumer surveys in which the vast majority of Asian consumers report caring more about the environment and taking action on it. They give the example where more than 80 percent of respondents in China, India, and emerging Asian economies said they had made changes to the products and services they bought because they were concerned about climate change.

However, there are still limits to Asia’s ‘green’ consumption as millions of consumers remain constrained in their choices by low incomes. Yet as these incomes gradually rise, greater preference for food product sustainability credentials and increased premiumization of food products are likely. Australia, as already an acknowledged source of healthy, clean and ‘green’ grains and pulses, is likely to become a trusted supplier to several Asian countries, provided these grains can be supplied at affordable prices.

Premium white bread in Japan being sold in packages of as few as two or three individual slices.

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Horizons: the AEGIC Economics and Market Insights blog

Expert grains industry analysis and commentary from AEGIC’s Economics and Market Insight Team on a range of big-picture topics that affect Australia’s export grains sector.

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