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China Food Exhibition|China’s booming pre-cooked food industry

2024.06.12

China Food Exhibition analyzed that pre-prepared dishes raked in a whopping 550 billion yuan in China last year, and the industry’s rapid growth rate could see it surpass 1 trillion yuan in just a few years. The trend reflects a change in Chinese people’s lifestyles during the pandemic, but the China Consumers Association says more regulations are needed.

 

The growing popularity of pre-cooked food in China – also known as the ready-meals industry – has made it a capital darling, with investors looking to cash in on the trend prompted by changes in people’s lifestyles amid the pandemic.

 

In the world’s second-largest economy, the market for pre-prepared dishes has been mainly driven by caterers. But a shift from restaurants to family dining tables in the past two years, with so many people staying home in the era of stringent zero-Covid mobility restrictions and lockdowns, has rapidly brought pre-made food to the mass consumer market.

 

Deloitte Asia-Pacific’s consumer goods and retail industry head, Zhang Tianbing, now says China’s pre-prepared food market looks to have a promising future, with the corporate side of the business currently more mature, while the general consumer market is still in the process of penetration.

 

“Pre-prepared dishes meet the preferences of a new generation of consumers for healthier and more distinctive meals … and the epidemic has accelerated the spread of pre-cooked food,” Zhang said.

 

Deloitte China, in cooperation with Mumian Capital and Inward Fund – two investment houses focusing on the country’s new economy sector – said in a report on Monday that the pre-made food market is shaping up to be even more lucrative this year than during the first two years of the pandemic.According to the report, China’s pre-prepared dishes market generated about 550 billion yuan (US$81.34 billion) in 2021, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 13 per cent over the next 5 years.

 

As of June, there were more than 66,000 domestic pre-cook-related enterprises, of which more than 1,020 were newly registered this year, with a growth rate of 42.7 per cent from January to June for new enterprise registrations, according to data from Tianyancha, a commercial database of public company records in China.

 

Hong Kong-listed Carrianna Group Holdings, which has operated a Chiu Chow cuisine restaurant under the same name in Wan Chai for more than 40 years, is eyeing the rapidly growing pre-cooked market on the mainland.

 

In Zhuhai, a bay-area city in Guangdong province, the local government is also preparing to build a prefabricated vegetable industrial park spanning about 1,250 acres according to China Food Exhibition. The industrial park, with a total investment of about 7.4 billion yuan, will cover all aspects of the pre-made-food industrial chain, from raw materials and production to processing and sales.

 

As a new capital darling, the pre-cooking industry is attracting cross-sector investment from companies outside the food industry.

 

In mid-July, the founder of a financial technology company called Qudian, Luo Min, ranked atop the e-commerce sales board by selling pre-made dishes on TikTok China, known as Douyin, using his personal account. It generated 252 million yuan worth of sales in a single session.

 

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