GlobalData: Asia-Pacific food and beverage brands are leveraging retro-themed product recipes, packaging and marketing content to stoke consumer nostalgia amid growing apprehensions due to geopolitical tensions, climate change, economic uncertainty

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October 2, 2023 (press release) –

Asia-Pacific (APAC) food and beverage brands are banking on retro and vintage-themed product recipes, packaging, and marketing content to stoke consumer nostalgia. Such throwback marketing strategies can appeal to consumers in light of the growing apprehensions due to geopolitical tensions, climate change, the cost-of-living crisis, and economic uncertainty. For instance, 57% of APAC respondents said that they were quite/extremely concerned about the cost-of-living crisis* in a Q2 2023 consumer survey by GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Tim Hill, Key Account Director at GlobalData Singapore, comments: “Amid the turbulence raised by political tensions, persistent inflation, and fears of economic recession, consumers are longing for simpler times of the past. In light of the growing stress, consumers are instinctively drawn to comfort foods with flavors, aromas, and visual cues that harken to memories of their childhood or youth. The authentic and familiar features can serve as an emotional anchor for them in uncertain times. Such vintage attributes can appeal to 59% of APAC consumers whose product and service purchases are often or always influenced by how familiar/trustworthy/ risk-free the product or service feels*. Retro styles are also perceived as trendy among younger generations, thereby allowing brands to connect with them.”

Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, notes: “Several APAC brands are leveraging this consumer sentiment by launching products with classic recipes or packaging that evokes nostalgia among older generations. Infusing vintage elements of yesteryear pop culture, historical, or social references into contemporary product and packaging formats allows companies to subtly hint at their longevity and heritage, without diluting their modern and trendy image. For instance, in March 2023, MAMEE-Double Decker launched a limited-edition line of their classic noodle snack, Mamee Monster, with the packaging label featuring the classic blue Mamee Monster mascot of the 1970s. Similarly, Bidor Kwong Heng recently adopted a classic packaging design for its Angel line of sauces in Malaysia. Also, Pepsi-Cola relaunched its iconic Pepsi Blue in the Philippines in 2022.”

Hill adds: “Throwback marketing has been increasingly in play in China since the pandemic. Top domestic brands, including Nai Xue, Wang, Wahaha, White Rabbit, and Zhongxuega, are blending nostalgia and nationalism into their product packaging and marketing mix. Several local and international brands have rolled out limited product packs featuring characters from popular yesteryear cartoons, pop culture, and fashion and lifestyle trends that young Millennials and Gen Z adults grew up on. Such limited-edition packaging is often promoted as collectibles. Typically, such campaigns are accompanied by social media activities that encourage consumers to share their memories. This allows brands to make personalized and emotional connections with consumers. Similarly, foreign brands venturing into APAC markets are partnering with local heritage brands to tap into the nostalgia factor and gain a foothold in new markets.”

Verghese concludes: “When used appropriately, nostalgia can be a powerful motivator akin to health and environmental factors. Throwback marketing can appeal to consumer sentiments, even overriding their price sensitivity, when making a purchase decision. Alternatively, food and beverage brands can leverage throwback pricing from the 1980s or 1990s as a limited-time offer to grab consumers’ attention at a time when inflation is such a major concern. However, for nostalgia marketing to succeed, marketers need to time the campaign launch perfectly. Moreover, though the brand messaging targets an older generation cohort, it needs to be contemporized to suit present-day cultural and social sensibilities.”

* GlobalData Q2 2023 Consumer Survey – Asia & Australasia, with 6,438 respondents, published in May 2023

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Jason Irving
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