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China Frozen and Chilled Ready Meals Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Frozen and Chilled Ready Meals market, its consumers and the major players who make up that market.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

  • What are the key challenges facing the industry?
  • Who is the consumer and what do they want?
  • Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Market

Market sizing

Our market size data shows you what consumers are spending their money on over time

Forecast

How big is the market today and what is our 5 year forecast? Includes both best & worst case scenarios

Market Segmentation

What are the different segments within the market and how are those individual segments performing?

Consumer

Consumer behaviors

What are consumers looking for, what drives their buying habits and what are their main purchase influencers?

Demographic breakdown

From iGen & Millennials to Baby Boomers & beyond. Who is spending money and what are they spending it on?

Representative sample

We gather our data from real-world consumers, selected to accurately reflect precise global demographics

Players

Company strategy

What are the key players doing, what has been successful for them and what was their marketing spend?

Product innovation

Using data from our Global New Product Database, what products were launched and how well were they perceived?

Opportunities

What happens next, which areas are likely to experience growth and what opportunities exist within the market?

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Loris Li, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Although the market prospects of ready meals have been questioned in recent years, especially given the competitive pressure from food delivery services and New Retail, Mintel believes the category still has strong potential. Indeed some leading players’ efforts with new product innovation are already paying off. What players need to do more is changing people’s perception that ready meals are only consumed when people want something quick to fill up on. On the contrary, ready meals can play a much bigger role as consumers are increasingly looking for tasty, nutritionally balanced meals that are authentic. This is basically what the UK and Japan ready meals market have achieved, by educating consumers that ready meals can be a special treat at home. Loris Li
Associate Director - Food & Drink

Covered in this Report

This Report covers packaged meals in the frozen or chilled format that are ready to eat or require limited preparation or additional food ingredients. Typical example products include:

  • buns
  • pizza
  • pasta
  • salads
  • sandwiches
  • frozen dumplings
  • prepared meals (both frozen and chilled)
  • packaged side dishes (that require simple preparation)

Throughout this Report, Mintel uses the term rice dumplings to refer to tang yuan (汤团) and dumplings to refer to shui jiao (水 饺) for differentiation.

To differentiate, prepared meals or meal sets refer to products that are prepared and include all ingredients and may just require heating. These are usually known as he fan/bian dang (盒饭/便当) in China.

The following are excluded from market sizing but discussed in the context of competition and consumer trends where relevant:

  • Ready -to-eat foods from food stores/supermarkets (熟食) and oden (关东煮) or skewers from convenience stores
  • Meal kits refer to products that require assembly to create a complete meal or a complete course of a meal. The main characteristic is that the product requires additional preparation besides just heating.

What you need to know

China’s ready meals market is under competitive pressure from all fronts, including food delivery services and New Retail. However, the long-term prospects of the category are still positive, especially in the chilled prepared meals segment.

This Report discusses opportunities in growing the category by understanding consumption trends, good competitive strategies from leading players as well as the success of the UK and Japan ready meals markets, focusing on premiumisation, foodservice trends that can potentially inspire product innovation, as well as the positioning of comfort foods for ready meals in China.

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
              • Figure 1: Retail value sales forecast of frozen ready meals, China 2013-23
              • Figure 2: Retail value sales forecast of chilled ready meals, China 2013-23
            • Companies and brands
              • Figure 3: Leading companies in frozen and chilled ready meals, by value share 2016-17
            • The consumer
              • Traditional frozen ready meals are losing ground to prepared meals
                • Figure 4: Consumption of frozen ready meals in the last 6 months, 2017 and 2018
                • Figure 5: % of heavy users (once a week or more) of selected frozen ready meals, 2017 and 2018
              • New product innovation and competitive pricing are key to brand performance
                • Figure 6: Brand switching habits and reasons, April 2018
              • Younger consumers and busy mums most reliant on convenience stores
                • Figure 7: Consumption of non-frozen ready meals in the past six months, April 2018
              • RMB 20 is the optimal price for prepared meals sold at C-stores
                • Figure 8: Price sensitivity – optimal price, April 2018
              • What we think
              • Issues and Insights

                • Premiumisation opportunities inspired by UK prepared meals innovation
                  • The facts
                    • The implications
                        • Figure 9: Examples of premium prepared meals from UK supermarkets
                      • How ready meal brands can tap into foodservice trends
                        • The facts
                          • The implications
                            • Figure 10: Examples of light meal menus from foodservices, China 2018
                            • Figure 11: Examples of poke bowl from supermarkets, US and Germany 2018
                          • Ready meal brands have not really leveraged the comfort food positioning
                            • The facts
                              • The implications
                                • Figure 12: Examples of food products with a comfort food message on pack, UK and India 2018
                                • Figure 13: Example of cup noodles with a super indulgence positioning, Japan
                            • The Market – What You Need to Know

                              • Strengthened growth thanks to premiumisation and active innovation
                                • Chilled ready meals taking a bigger share in the next five years
                                  • Changing competition landscape brings both opportunities and challenges
                                  • Market Size, Segmentation and Forecast

                                    • Growth is likely to strengthen in 2018
                                      • Figure 14: Frozen and chilled ready meals, by sales value and volume, China 2013-18
                                      • Figure 15: Share of ready meals in total in-home food spending, China, US and UK, 2017
                                    • Frozen ready meals still dominant but chilled products are steadily gaining importance
                                      • Figure 16: Segment value and volume share in ready meals, China, 2013-18
                                    • Next five-year-outlook
                                      • Figure 17: Retail value sales forecast of frozen ready meals, China 2013-23
                                      • Figure 18: Retail value sales forecast of chilled ready meals, China 2013-23
                                  • Market Factors

                                    • Choice of quick meal solutions expanded by New Retail and food delivery services
                                      • Figure 19: Frequency of ordering food delivery, May 2018
                                      • Figure 20: total consumer spending on in-home food and foodservice, China 2013-22
                                    • Convenience stores continue to expand
                                      • Successful premiumisation and new product launches bringing back growth momentum
                                        • Prepared meals still have a lot of room for growth
                                          • Figure 21: Share of new product launches in ready meals market, China, US, Japan, UK
                                      • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                        • Synear’s successful premiumisation strategy pays off
                                          • Sanquan bets on self-heated prepared meals riding on the buzz of the self-heated hot pot
                                            • Competition shifts from targeting children to focusing on health and convenience
                                              • Foodservice trends inspire premiumisation in ready meals
                                                • New Retail starts to shake the market
                                                • Market Share

                                                  • Synear enjoyed strongest growth in 2017
                                                    • Figure 22: Leading companies in frozen and chilled ready meals, by value share 2016-17
                                                    • Figure 23: Popular products from Synear, 2017
                                                    • Figure 24: Popular products from Sanquan, 2017
                                                • Competitive Strategies

                                                  • Foodservice trends inspire premium choices at retail
                                                    • Figure 25: Icon product from bibigo sold in China
                                                    • Figure 26: Examples of premium ready meals sold at City’super, Shanghai
                                                    • Figure 27: Examples of frozen ready meals capturing trends in foodservice trends, China 2017
                                                  • Crawfish becomes a new battle front
                                                    • Figure 28: Examples of crawfish products sold at retail channels
                                                  • Fresh Hema rattles ready meals market
                                                      • Figure 29: Examples of freshly handmade dumplings sold at Fresh Hema
                                                      • Figure 30: Examples of chilled ready meals sold at Fresh Hema
                                                      • Figure 31: Examples of meal kits sold at Fresh Hema
                                                    • Convenience stores intensifying competition with private label products
                                                      • Figure 32: Examples of packaged dishes requiring simple heating sold in convenience stores, China
                                                  • Who’s Innovating?

                                                    • General trends in new product launches
                                                      • Figure 33: Trends in top claims in ready meals market, China 2016-18
                                                    • Noteworthy innovations in China
                                                      • Self-heated hot pot became the food craze in late 2017
                                                        • Figure 34: Self-heated hotpot and rice bowls, China 2017-18
                                                      • New ingredients revitalise the long-established frozen bun segment
                                                        • Figure 35: Frozen buns featuring coarse grains, China 2017
                                                      • Eat with your eyes
                                                        • Figure 36: Examples of frozen buns in animal shapes
                                                      • Global trends inspire China market
                                                        • US: moving away from diet-positioned products to real ingredients, nutritional claims, and all-in-one bowls
                                                            • Figure 37: Noteworthy new ready meals launched in US, 2016-18
                                                          • Japan: a wide range of choices for singles and seniors
                                                            • Figure 38: Ready meals targeting seniors or singles sold in 7-11, Japan 2018
                                                            • Figure 39: New ready meals designed for seniors, Japan 2018
                                                          • Europe: ancient grains and superfoods – what’s next after quinoa?
                                                            • Figure 40: New ready meals and salads featuring different types of ancient grains, Europe 2018
                                                            • Figure 41: Search interest in quinoa, China 2012-18
                                                        • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                          • Traditional Chinese-style frozen ready meals are struggling to recruit new users
                                                            • Novelty seeking is the biggest reason for brand switching
                                                              • Freshly made foods pose a strong threat
                                                                • Under-30s and busy mums most reliant on convenience stores
                                                                  • RMB 20 is the optimal price for prepared meals sold at C-stores
                                                                  • Trends in Consumption of Frozen Ready Meals

                                                                    • Usage drops the most in dumplings, buns and dim sum segments
                                                                      • Figure 42: Consumption of frozen ready meals in the last 6 months, 2017 and 2018
                                                                    • Meal sets and Western-style ready meals are more resilient…
                                                                      • Figure 43: Gap of consumption rate between high and low income (as benchmark) consumers, April 2018
                                                                    • …especially when fewer types are consumed compared to 2017
                                                                      • Figure 44: Repertoire analysis of frozen ready meals consumed in the past six months, 2017 and 2018
                                                                      • Figure 45: Consumption of frozen ready meals in the last 6 months, by those who have only consumed one or two types, April 2018
                                                                    • Western-style ready meals most appealing to 25-39s
                                                                      • Figure 46: Consumption of frozen ready meals in the last 6 months, by selected demographics, April 2018
                                                                    • Meal sets enjoying the biggest growth in heavy users
                                                                      • Figure 47: Trends in consumption frequency (% of once a week or more) of frozen ready meals, 2017 and 2018
                                                                  • Brand Switching Habits

                                                                    • More than 80% switch between brands and new product is the biggest trigger
                                                                      • Figure 48: Brand switching habits and reasons, April 2018
                                                                    • Novelty seekers vs promotion seekers
                                                                      • Figure 49: Gap in types of frozen ready meals purchased in the past six months between novelty seekers and promotion seekers (as benchmark), April 2018
                                                                    • WoM and ads still work, on certain generations
                                                                      • Figure 50: Selected brand switching reasons, by selected demographics, April 2018
                                                                  • Consumption of Non-Frozen Ready Meals

                                                                    • Offerings from different retailers make competition more intense
                                                                      • Figure 51: Consumption of non-frozen ready meals in the past six months, April 2018
                                                                    • Younger generations heavily reliant on convenience stores
                                                                      • Figure 52: Consumption of non-frozen ready meals in the past six months, by certain demographics, April 2018
                                                                      • Figure 53: Consumption of selected non-frozen ready meals in the past six months, by certain demographics, April 2018
                                                                    • Frequency and penetration show different rankings
                                                                      • Figure 54: Consumption frequency of non-frozen ready meals, April 2018
                                                                    • More potential from busy mums
                                                                      • Figure 55: Consumption frequency of selected non-frozen ready meals, % once a week or more, by selected demographics, April 2018
                                                                    • Who are buying packaged dishes requiring simple preparation?
                                                                    • Optimal Pricing for Prepared Meals Sold at C-stores

                                                                      • Methodology
                                                                        • Consumer expectation justifies current market pricing
                                                                          • Figure 56: Price sensitivity – optimal price, April 2018
                                                                          • Figure 57: Price sensitivity – threshold prices, April 2018
                                                                        • Who are the premium product buyers?
                                                                          • Figure 58: Price points that are considered as expensive but still would consider buying, by selected demographics, April 2018
                                                                      • Meet the Mintropolitans

                                                                        • Overall consumption of ready meals is higher, especially Western-style ones
                                                                          • Figure 59: Gap of ready meal consumption between Mintropolitans and Non-Mintropolitans (as benchmark), April 2018
                                                                        • More willing to try new things if convinced of quality
                                                                          • Figure 60: Brand switching habit when buying frozen ready meals, by selected demographics, April 2018
                                                                        • 43% of MinTs would consider buying a meal kit over RMB 30
                                                                          • Figure 61: Price sensitivity of prepared meals sold at C-stores, April 2018
                                                                      • Appendix – Market Size, Segmentation and Forecast

                                                                          • Figure 62: Retail value sales of total frozen and chilled ready meals, China 2013-23
                                                                          • Figure 63: Retail volume sales of total frozen and chilled ready meals, China 2013-23
                                                                          • Figure 64: Retail volume sales of frozen ready meals, China 2013-23
                                                                          • Figure 65: Retail volume sales of chilled ready meals, China 2013-23
                                                                          • Figure 66: Detailed retail value and volume sales of frozen and chilled ready meals, China 2013-23
                                                                      • Appendix – Market Share

                                                                        • Volume market share
                                                                          • Figure 67: Leading companies in frozen and chilled ready meals, by volume share 2016-17
                                                                      • Appendix – Methodology and Abbreviations

                                                                        • Methodology
                                                                          • Fan chart forecast
                                                                            • Abbreviations