According to the consultancy firm European Advisory Service (EAS), a proposal to unify food rules across ten Asian countries would make it easier for European firms to market their goods to the areas massive population. The Asian branch of EAS is aiming to update industry on the current regulatory challenges facing Asian countries in a workshop scheduled for the New Year, where it will be talking about the future of the market and how it will be affected by legislation. Currently one of the big developments in the region is a proposal by the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) to unify food laws - similar to the harmonisation rules underway by the European Union. The Asean area could become increasingly significant to Europe as harmonisation would make it easier for Asian companies to target Europe and vice versa. This would allow easy access for European firms to market products to some of the 500 m residents in the Asean area. EAS director Simon Pettman said in a recent podcast: "It is a particularly exciting region at present. Not only do we have some of the fastest growing markets for functional foods, for food supplements and for many other products of any markets in the world , in addition we have a drive for harmonisation of regulation which is creating new conditions for companies and many new opportunities." He added that interest from European countries to launch in Asia is "considerable". Pettman said: "With growth rates in excess of 15 per cent in many product categories and 500 m people this huge interest both from European, American and Japanese companies. But we would also like to help many Asian countries, Singaporean, South East Asian countries to overcome the regulatory barrier to enter into Europe." The situation in the Asean area is complicated, he said, with regulation differing vastly from country to country. While EAS has predicted significant opportunities will be created, it also said the region faces equal diversities and similar complexities as those currently being tackled in the EU harmonisation process.The Asean supplements industry is currently estimated to be worth around US$1.5bn (c €1.17bn), and is growing at a rate of around 10 per cent per year. Part of the reason for this growth is the rise of disposable incomes, enabling more consumers to purchase products beyond their basic food needs. The EAS meeting will be held in January in Singapore. Asean was formed in 1967, and in 1997 it adopted its Vision 2020 programme aimed at creating closer economic integrations and, ultimately, leading to an ASEAN economic community. Health care was established as one of 11 priority areas of harmonisation, and the Traditional Medicines and Health Supplements working group was created to force regulation in this market that would over-ride pre-existing national regulations. The ten countries that make up Asean are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.