The nationwide lockdown in the first quarter of 2020 significantly boosted demand for frozen ready meals. Indeed, in February, frozen dumplings sold out in many physical retail outlets.
In contrast to frozen ready meals, chilled ready meals has seen demand adversely affected by COVID-19 and measures implemented to limit the spread of the disease. The short shelf life of chilled ready meals makes such products incompatible with long-term storage and, therefore, bulk buying when opportunities for grocery shopping are limited.
The closure of foodservice channels and the subsequent plunge in food delivery orders generated increased demand for self-heating ready meals amongst consumers without the time, skill or inclination to cook at home. Self-heating ready meals products are extremely easy to make, as they provide a heating kit which requires only the addition of cold water to prepare the whole dish.
Zhengzhou Sanquan Food Co Ltd remains the largest player in ready meals in the Chinese market, and the leader in the fast-growing frozen ready meals category. Moreover, the company is set to play an important role in the development of ready meals in the forecast period, as it looks to expand its business in new product areas and channels.
Although the category’s key convenience stores channel is set to see a recovery in traffic and revenue following the easing of lockdown restrictions and the resumption of familiar shopping habits, chilled ready meals will continue to face significant challenges. Amongst the most prominent will be the growing threat represented by food delivery platforms, whose offer of delivery to the consumer’s door outcompetes visiting a store to purchase a chilled bento box in terms of convenience.
Self-heating ready meals is set to continue to emerge during the forecast period, with a large number of new players entering the segment. However, growth may be constrained by concerns about safety issues.
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This report originates from Passport, our Ready Meals research and analysis database.
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