Thailand: Food Service Industry in a snapshot

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.


Let’s start with a BtB-oriented article about one of the most interesting country in SEAsia, Thailand. The Thai food-service industry offers a lot of opportunities to food producers as we will see later in this article. In order to better understand the full picture I’ll provide a very simple country overlook, a specific food-service snapshot and a practical conclusion.


2018 Population: 69 million
2018 GDP: 505 billon USD
2018 GDP x capita: 7,445
2018 total import of consumer products: 5 billion USD
2018 total imported Italian pasta: 5,450 tons


The foodservice business in Thailand is keep growing at a 5% pace YoY in a country that, despite some political instability, can still count on solid economic basis, mainly due to tourism industry. Tourism accounts for roughly 12 % of the GDP and in 2018 the Ministry of Tourism registered 38 million international tourists confirming Thailand as one of the best tourist destination in the world. The occupancy rate is one of the highest in APAC slightly above 70% for the 5000 hotels and resort spread nation-wide and including more than 100,000 restaurants. In big cities like Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai the competition is fierce and offer is massive, the most popular restaurant choices are Japanese, Korean, Chinese and of course Italian. It‘s interesting to note the split of the main visitor nationalities , being:
Chinese for 28% , Russian 6%, Malaysian 5%, South-Korean 4% and Japanese also 4% . For Italian food, there are plenty of good choices, and real Italian food, cooked by Italian Chef with traditional ingredients can be easily found in all the main cities, especially Bangkok. Local consumers are more and more educated and the sales of Italian products are rising also in retail and ecommerce thanks to the visibility gained in restaurants business; for the e-commerce, the opportunities are countless considering a very young 66 million population that commonly use mobile phone ( we will dedicate an article to both retail and e-commerce business ) . The most important yearly food-exhibition, Thaifex, became the expo reference in the South-East Asia with rising number of visitors and expositors.


The numbers of importers selling to HRI (hotel, restaurant and institution) is steadily increasing due to the strong expansion of the food service in the recent years. More and more are focusing on quality imported food: meat-based and seafood are still the most attractive categories, but also the most difficult ones in terms of regulations and of course logistic. A good occasion to meet-up with pro players is to visit Thaifex .


Thailand is a strategic market in APAC and still haven’t expressed all its potential. Even though it is a price oriented market for commodities and low-end products, it offers room for real premium imported quality food. The HRI business is expected to continue expansion for the coming years especially through hotel segment and a proper sales volume for Italian brands must be sought in this channel. See you all at Thaifex in 2020 Fellas !

2 thoughts on “Thailand: Food Service Industry in a snapshot

  1. interesting to read the pie-chart of Thai Import, and to know Importing from Cambodia at 4%, & 23% from others should be mainly from Europe?? Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

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