Food has always been and will undoubtedly continue to be an integral part of our society. Whether it is utilised as an obligatory everyday greeting, ice-breaker in the course of social communication or the preferred venue for insurance and multi-level marketing salespersons, Malaysians have always turned to our gastronomic delights for a sense of acquaintance.
With the food and beverages industry contributing about 16% of the country’s total annual tourism receipts, it is evident that it is also becoming an important tool for international travellers to be better acquainted with Malaysia.
However, judging from a quick tour of a recent food and hotel exhibitions in town showcasing our array of F&B and hospitality industries’ food, drinks, merchandises and supplies, there is still some way to go for us to truly entice the estimated 28 million tourists expected to walk through our airports next year.
Several of the 1,400 exhibitors dazzled visitors with their fancy booths and promoters with never-ending legs. Some resorted to free samples to entice people to try their latest delicacies. Almost all shoved environment-unfriendly brochures into every single passing individual.
Yet, many of the home-grown products were visibly lacking in attractive packaging in comparison to the more established multinational brands. The choice of colours were dull and uninteresting; the copywriting unimaginative; and labels were not comprehensive.
“Our priority is to make sure that we have the best-possible tasting product in the market. Packaging is not our main worry for the time being,” explained Azman who is a marketing executive for a frozen food supplier.
James, an operation manager with traditional herbs manufacturer concurred: “It takes more money to invest in good packaging for our products. This would mean the use of specialised graphics design tools and longer production time. These are things we cannot afford to spend on at the moment.
As the country heralds in Visit Malaysia Year next year and with an eye on the potential appetising RM76 bil income these tourists are bringing along with them, it is important that our local F&B enterprises start investing in more appealing packaging.
While aesthetics and appearance may arguably not do much to the product’s flavour and lavish ingredients, it could well play a considerable role in getting consumers to pick it up on from the shelves.
After all, I strongly do not think that there would be many of you who would be seduced to pick up a packet of locally-made curry puffs in a murky looking plastic packaging with an unreadable aged label that simply states “Curry Puff”.