It’s that time of the year again in China when food becomes a protagonist as the nation prepares menus for the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar – Spring Festival. Among all categories on offer, pre-cooked food turns out to be the biggest winner this year.
These pre-prepared foods are mainly traditional Chinese dishes, in line with the traditional festival. Although they are easy to serve, unlike instant food and fast food, they normally involve complicated cooking skills, rich ingredients, and spices. More importantly, they serve as a quick alternative to homemade dishes without losing the authentic flavours, and therefore, ideal choices for the special occasion, especially among young consumers.
It is reported that, unlike previous years, when fresh raw ingredients were in demand around the festive season, supermarkets in major cities in China have seen sales of pre-cooked food surge as the country runs towards the day for the feast. Since this January, more than 10 million RMB ($1.57 million) sales of such products have so far been recorded by 7Fresh, a high-tech supermarket (a subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com) which is a 94% year-on-year increase.
China’s tier 1 cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou see the highest demands, accounting for nearly half of the national sales made so far, highlighting the convenience they provide as these areas typically have the harder jobs and more than 996 companies (companies whose hours are 9 am to 9 pm six days a week).
The emerging consumer trend is due partly to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, as restrictions on domestic travel have once again been tightened, as the country is facing another wave of COVID outbreaks. As a result, many migrant workers have been stuck in big cities, unable to reunite with family members and friends, which has pushed busy workers to go for meal options that require less effort, driving the demand for such products up in those areas.
On the other hand, the occurrence is also a result of a broader societal change in consumer behaviours. As China’s Millennials and Gen Z generations have become the backbone of the nation’s consumption, the market has been undergoing a transformation to cater to the lucrative demographics too.
This has brought about the so-called single economy and lazy economy, in which products that cater to making life more convenient and easier are in higher demand than usual. Pre-cooked food has successfully tapped into these two emerging trends, as it provides solutions for young people who live alone yet who are not bothered to spend too much time preparing meals.
With the two trends continuing to gain a foothold, China’s pre-cooked food market is expected to grow at a rate of 20% each year, from the already massive market scale at 346 billion RMB ($54.47 billion) in 2021. It can be seen here comes the next battlefield for food experts to win over China’s young consumers, with the ability to blend quicker and easier cooking with quality taste the key ingredients needed to provide a quality product.