Wednesday 15 April 2020
Singapore Dry Gin by Brass Lion Distillery, one of the many artisan productions in Southeast Asia. Photo: BLD

It would have been inconceivable over a decade ago to imagine that we would be tasting and purchasing locally produced luxury goods like nangka gin and gourmet dark chocolate. Southeast Asia is part of the global artisan food revolution which has exploded over the last decade.

But what exactly is artisan food? Truth be told, there isn’t a single definition but in broad terms, it is essentially locally produced food made with non-industrial processes.

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The term “artisan” is similar to the word craft. What we call craft beer could just as well be known as artisan beer.

The rise of this category has been exponential – artisan, or craft, food and beverages have grown increasingly popular in the past few years. Just a quick search online or browse through social media platforms and you’re bound to see several homegrown food and drink producers, ranging from tempeh to whiskey. All proudly stamped with the “made locally” – or variations of that – tagline.

The growth of this industry reaps several benefits. The advantage of artisan foods is that it comes with the added bonus of being sustainably produced.

The underlying philosophy amongst artisan food makers is to deliver products with minimal additives so their customers know exactly where their meals come from.

Southeast Asia’s variable landscape also allows farmers to grow an abundance of fruits and vegetation, which enable food makers to expand their craft.

That’s not all. Artisan food producers care deeply for the communities in which they operate. They rely on local labour, farmers or indigenous peoples, rather than mechanisation. They are guided by fair trade practices rather than the God of Profit alone. A win-win situation for most parties no doubt.


Responsible food artisans respect both Mother Earth and you, their consumer, by eschewing nasty chemicals and pesticides. They tend to use less fossil fuels, emit less greenhouse gases whilst conserving water resources and building healthy soil.

The future looks bright for the artisan community.

This is an excerpt from Unreserved’s March 2020 issue from the article The Rise of Food Artisans.