After years of robust double-digit growth, sales of packaged groceries in Asia Pacific have slowed in the past two years as the region’s markets mature and consumer demand stabilises. Average FMCG sales growth across the region slowed to 6.7% in 2013 and volume growth accounted for less than 3% of overall growth. This slowdown has continued into 2014 with Q2 2014 sales growth figures falling to 4.1% while volume was almost flat at just 0.3%.
The lack of growth in FMCG is somewhat of an anomaly in a region where overall economic performance and forecasts remain relatively positive. Coming on the back of three years of robust growth for many countries, it is possible that consumption growth is adjusting to a more stable level. Further, a number of countries experienced high inflation, which impacted consumer spending. Other longer term trends, such as decreasing household sizes, increasing household debt and prioritisation of expenditure on technology and out-of-home consumption also play a role.
A significant proportion of the FMCG growth witnessed over the past year is attributed to the rising influence of convenience stores and minimarkets in mature markets, such as Taiwan and South Korea, and developing markets, particularly Indonesia and Thailand. As the popularity of small format stores increases in many markets, there has been a corresponding rise in average shopping frequency. Monthly pantry shopping, which has traditionally been the standard for many shoppers, is in gradual decline as more frequent weekly shopping trips are rapidly becoming the norm.
In the face of such shifting trends, it is critical retailers keep pace with consumers’ basic expectations by offering competitive prices and greater convenience. Improving the in-store experience and focusing on ranging which appeals to time-poor shoppers are increasingly important differentiators for retailers which will serve to drive story loyalty.
NINE ASIA-WIDE TRENDS IDENTIFIED
Nielsen identifies nine sector-defining trends shaping the retail environment in Asia Pacific.
PACKAGED GROCERY SALES HAVE SLOWED
FMCG sales contracted in 12 of the 13 markets covered in the report; only Hong Kong enjoyed growth in sales volume during the coverage period.
SHRINKING INVESTMENT IN STORE OPENINGS
There were marked decreases in new outlet openings in India, Malaysia and South Korea last year compared to the average of the previous five years, with Indonesia the only market to buck that trend.
ASIAN RETAILERS FOCUS ON SOUTHEAST ASIA
Asian chains, particularly from South Korea and Japan, are expanding into Southeast Asian markets, as new investments by global retailers have fallen significantly.
SMALL-FORMAT STORES ON THE RISE
With increased investment in small format store numbers resulting in greater accessibility for shoppers and driving up shopping frequency, minimarkets and convenience stores have gained a greater share of the market for packaged grocery sales across Asia.
TIME-POOR SHOPPERS SEEK READY-TO-EAT MEAL OPTIONS
Shoppers’ increasing consumption of ready-to-eat ‘food on the go’ has the potential to negatively impact demand for basic groceries items, while providing an opportunity for retailers to compete in the fast-food space.
INCREASING INVESTMENT IN E-COMMERCE AS RETAILERS SIZE UP THE DIGITAL MARKETPLACE
While the proportion of shoppers visiting retailers’ websites remains relatively low, retailers’ digital investments are on the rise as they look to establish an online footprint and capture future growth opportunities.
SPENDING ON PROMOTIONS IS ON THE UP
More products are being sold on promotion as chain retailers look to win share of consumer spend in increasingly competitive markets. Within the region New Zealand retailers have the highest level of promotional spend.
PERSONAL CARE CHANNELS ARE GROWING
Drugstores and personal care outlets should continue to gain FMCG market share as more consumers visit each week.
PRIVATE LABEL BRANDS HAVE STALLED
With a lack of significant investment in developing consumer demand through private label marketing in most Asian markets, private label growth remains stagnant, while in Australia we continue to see private label demand increase.
Insights contained in this article are based on the 2014 Nielsen Asia Pacific Retail & Shopper Trends Report, a comprehensive report on retail trends across 13 markets. The report includes analysis specific to each market, including a macroeconomic overview, consumer and retail trends, and forward-looking insights. Statistics included in the report include market dynamics data, store universe numbers and a summary of chain stores by category. The data in the report is drawn from sources that include the Nielsen Consumer Panel, the Nielsen Retail Index and the Nielsen Global Survey, which includes the Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions, and the Global Survey of E-commerce.