Food Industry in Thailand “Kitchen of the World”


An abundance of natural resources combined with significant investments in technology, food safety R&D and adhering to international quality standards have helped to dub Thailand as the “Kitchen of the World.” As the largest sole net food exporter in Asia, Thailand is one of the world’s largest producers of food products such as rice, canned tuna, frozen seafood, chicken and canned pineapple.

In 2011, the value of Thai food exports increased 20% from the previous year owing to strengthened economic performance amongst major food importers such as the US, Japan, and ASEAN countries.

food2Fishery products

In 2011, Thailand exported 1.7 million tons of fishery products valued at US$8.2 billion, a 12% increase from 2010. This growth is driven by rising demand in the U.S. and Japan.


In 2011, the value of rice exports grew by 17% from 2010, owing to higher prices in the wake of natural disasters affecting global food supplies.

Livestock Products

In 2011, the value of meat exports increased by 14% from 2010. Following the 2011 tsunami and nuclear plant leaks, Japanese consumers significantly contributed to demand increases in poultry and meat products from unaffected countries such as Thailand.

Fruit and Vegetable Products

In 2011, the value of fruit and vegetable exports grew by 8% and 20% year-on-year respectively. Growth was focused in the processed fruits and vegetables industries and driven by demand growth from the US and EU.

Seasonings and Ingredients

Thailand’s strengths in food processing have also brought the country to global prominence in the seasonings and ingredients industries. The abundant supply of raw materials for seasoning and ingredients production and the potential for local skills development to manufacture specialty food products such as seasonings make the country an appealing destination for investment.

The value of Thailand’s food ingredients exports in 2011 reached US$479 million. Exports of chilli sauce totalled US$47 million, followed by instant curry (US$45 million), fish sauce (US$41 million), oyster sauce (US$22 million), soya sauce (US$18 million) and tomato sauces (US$6 million). Additionally, chilli sauce and oyster sauce saw annual growth rates in 2011 of 24%, followed by soya sauce (20%).

When Fresh Produce Meets Technology

Thailand’s abundant natural resources play a central role in its comparative advantage among its competitors in the food processing industry; 80% of the raw materials in domestic food manufacturing are locally available. The use of these rich natural resources, optimized by the introduction of technology and robust implementation of international standards of food safety and hygiene, will help Thailand remain a world leader in the food processing industry.

Thai Government and industry initiatives have helped Thailand’s processed food industry upgrade its procedures and technologies so that its products meet international quality and sanitation standards, thus making them more competitive in the global marketplace. These initiatives have been so successful that processed food exports now exceed primary agricultural exports.

Thai food processors are successfully developing new frozen food products to keep up with shifting tastes in their overseas markets. In 2011, Thailand exported 416,922 tons of ready-to-eat (RTE) food and food ingredients valued  at US$955 million – a 16% increase over the previous year. Thai RTE food is gaining popularity overseas as other countries grow accustomed to Thai quality, nutrition, and taste. Additionally, sauces and curries are enjoying remarkable success in overseas markets. Between 2010 and 2011, annual growth reached 18% with a total value of US$479 million. Major export markets currently include Japan, the US, Philippines and Cambodia.

Although most processed food products are for the international market, the domestic consumption of processed food continues to grow due to changes in lifestyles that have brought about increased demand for convenient food options. These processed food products are available in a wide variety of venues, most notably major Thai supermarkets such as Tesco, Makro, The Mall Group, Big C, Foodland, and Tops.


Asia harbors tremendous opportunities for food processors. Food demand in South and Southeast Asia will experience substantial growth as populations and incomes expand. Here are some examples.

Ready-to-eat food

The retail market value of global packaged food is predicted to grow by 9.74% from US$1.95 trillion in 2010 and is expected to reach US$2.14 trillion by 2015.

In line with the global market, the local Thai market for package food products is also experiencing significant growth. As lifestyles continue to change, convenient and ready-to-eat processed food products will become increasingly popular. Demand from abroad is expanding as well. In 2011, the export value of ready-to-eat products was US$9.3 billion, 12% higher than in the previous year.



Demand of sweet and savory snacks in Thailand has continued to increase, driven by aggressive advertising and marketing activities among leading players in the industry. In 2011, sweet and savory snacks grew by 7% year-on-year in current retail value terms to reached US$840 million. Thailand’s market for sweet and savory snacks is expected to reach US$1 billion by 2016. Resulting from the growth in health-conscious consumers, there has been an increase of health and wellness snacks. Many manufacturers have tried to reformulate their products to reduce the amount of salt or make them salt free, reduced the amount of sugar or make them sugar free and reduce the amount of fat in their products, in response to increased demand from consumers for healthier snacks.

Health food

According to the Euromonitor International 2011 report compiled by the National Food Institute, in 2010, health and wellness products sales reached US$627.5 billion and are expected to reach over US$772 billion by 2015. Natural food products occupy the largest market share at 38.5%, fortified/functional food 30.3%, better-for-you food 25.5%, organic food 4.3%, and food allergy products 1.3%.

The Thai domestic market also has strong demand for health food products. According to the National Food Institute, consumer expenditures on health and wellness foods in 2011 grew to US$4 billion, while US$1.7 billion was spent on consumer health foods including sports nutrition, vitamins and dietary supplements, weight management, herbal/traditional products, allergy care and child-specific consumer health products.

Food Machinery and Equipment

The market for food machinery and packaging equipment has been driven by the growth of the general food processing industry. Leaders in the Thai food processing industry are constantly developing cutting-edge technologies to keep up with increasing global demand. For instance, the introduction of the GMP standard for the food safety equipment in 2003 has brought a notable increase in the volume of GMP-level equipment purchased by Thailand-based firms. The market of food processing and packaging equipment in Thailand has grown by an average of 20% every year since 1999. In Thailand, the total trade value of food processing and packaging equipment in 2011 was almost US$ 270 million, a 61% increased from 2010.

Imports of machinery for the preparation of food or drink increased 65% in 2011 to US$166 million. The majority of this equipment was imported from Japan (26%), Netherlands (11%), Germany (11%), and China (10%).

Why Thailand?

Competitive workforce: According to the Thai National Food Institute, there are approximately 800,000 labourers in Thailand’s food industry. Furthermore, the government’s numerous training and support organizations will ensure a robust and technically-equipped workforce today and into the future.

Strong Business Climate: Thailand’s economy is one of the fastest growing in Asia, with 2012 GDP projected to grow by around 6.5 percent, and the World Bank Doing Business 2012 report indicated that Thailand was ranked 17th in the world and 2nd in Southeast Asia in terms of ease of doing business.

Hub of Asia: The reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers articulated in free trade agreements between Thailand and India, China, Japan, Australia and ASEAN extends trade opportunities with neighbouring countries. Thailand stands out amongst neighbouring countries because of its bilateral and multilateral collaboration, excellent infrastructure, abundant raw materials, skilled labour, government support, and the central location among ASEAN countries with close proximity to India and China. Furthermore, the launch of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 will expand the market of Thai food to around 600 million consumers over Southeast Asia. 






Thailand Embassy in Mexico

Adress: Paseo de las Palmas No.1610 Lomas de Chapultepec México D.F. 11000
Phone: (+52-55) 5540 4551, 5540 a 4529
Fax: (52-55) 5540 - 4817


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