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China 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 Ready Meals market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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?

Covered in this report

This report looks at consumers’ purchase and consumption habits of ready meals, their general attitudes towards and expectations of ready meals, and their attitudes towards future trends.

Ready meals include frozen, chilled, and ambient meals that require easy preparation. Frozen ready meals include frozen dumplings/wontons, frozen tangyuan (rice dumpling), frozen buns/ dim sum, frozen meat meal set, frozen pizza/pasta, and so forth. Chilled ready meals include ready-made lunchboxes/dishes that only need simple heating, sandwiches, sushi/rice balls, salad, etc. Ambient ready meals include cooked foods (eg deli, Oden) or ambient packaged meals (eg canned mixed congee).

Market value is based on spending on frozen and chilled ready meals; market volume is based on tonnes of consumption.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Belle Wang, 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.

Consumers evaluate the healthiness of ready meals based more on intrinsic factors, such as nutrition and ingredients; they also pay attention to labels. Upgrading products leveraging these elements is a current trend. Meanwhile, consumers are also paying attention to short shelf life, so chilled ready meals may have a better chance in the future, especially given the growth of Fresh apps, C-stores and community stores Belle Wang
Food & Drink Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

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

          • The market
            • A steady growth in ready meal market
              • Figure 1: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of ready meal market, China, 2014-24
            • Volume growth in the chilled faster than in the frozen ready meal market
              • Figure 2: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of ready meal market, China, 2014-24
            • Stimulus from foodservice business
              • Demand for product upgrade and premiumisation
                • Innovative retail channels expand ready meal availability
                  • Freeze-drying technology spurs further market growth
                    • Companies and brands
                      • Sanquan lost market share
                        • Synear and Wanchai Ferry gained market share
                          • Expanding business through new retail channels
                            • Developing a supply chain to control cost
                              • Vegetable oils latest trend
                                • The consumer
                                  • Demand for upgrading traditional frozen ready meals
                                    • Figure 3: Foods purchased, China, April 2019
                                  • Enhance frozen ready meals’ family sharing image
                                    • Figure 4: Consumption occasions, China, April 2019
                                  • Trade up potential in frozen dumplings and meat meal sets
                                    • Figure 5: Trading up potential, China, April 2019
                                  • Nutrition labels and familiar flavours make breakfast ready meals more appealing
                                    • Figure 6: General attitude/habit, China, April 2019
                                  • Intrinsic factors are more essential when boosting health value
                                    • Figure 7: Factors associated with health value, China, April 2019
                                  • Reasons for different penetration rates of ready meals/snacks
                                    • Figure 8: Consumption of and interest in ready meals and snacks, China, April 2019
                                  • What we think
                                  • Issues and Insights

                                    • Develop premium frozen ready meals for breakfast occasion
                                      • The facts
                                        • The implications
                                          • Figure 9: Buns with imported, nutritious ingredients, by Synear, China, 2019
                                        • Enhance the performance of chilled ready meals in the lunch occasion
                                          • The facts
                                            • The implications
                                              • Freeze-dried products provide convenience with maximum level of nutrition
                                                • The facts
                                                  • The implications
                                                    • Figure 10: Freeze-dried noodle, by Jin Mai Lang, China
                                                    • Figure 11: Bird nest and tremella thick soup, by Zao Can Li, China
                                                • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                  • Frozen ready meal market is growing steadily
                                                    • Solid performance in chilled ready meal market
                                                      • A promising market for ambient ready meals
                                                      • Market Size and Forecast

                                                        • Frozen dominates while chilled grows steadily
                                                          • Figure 12: Changing proportion of frozen and chilled ready meals in value, China, 2014-19
                                                          • Figure 13: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                        • Sales volume easing
                                                          • Figure 14: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                      • Market Factors

                                                        • Foodservice businesses enter the ready meal market
                                                          • Increasing health consciousness motivates premiumisation
                                                            • Innovative retail channels expand the availability of ready meals
                                                              • Technology like freeze-drying helps further growth
                                                              • Market Segmentation

                                                                • Steady value growth in frozen ready meal market
                                                                  • Figure 15: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of frozen ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                • Slowing volume growth in frozen ready meal market
                                                                  • Figure 16: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of frozen ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                • Chilled ready meal market enjoys double-digit value growth
                                                                  • Figure 17: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of chilled ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                • Chilled ready meals see giant increase in volume
                                                                  • Figure 18: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of chilled ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                • Ambient ready meals are essential part of ready meal market
                                                                • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                                                  • Sanquan dumplings were struggling
                                                                    • Synear won market share thanks to high consumer satisfaction
                                                                      • Wanchai Ferry gained share thanks to younger consumer market
                                                                      • Market Share

                                                                        • Sanquan’s core business faced bottleneck
                                                                          • Figure 19: Leading companies in frozen and chilled ready meals, by value share 2017-18
                                                                        • Synear garnered high consumer satisfaction
                                                                          • Wanchai Ferry expended the younger consumer market
                                                                          • Competitive Strategies

                                                                            • Utilise new sales channels to expand
                                                                              • Focus on developing supply chain
                                                                                • Enhance products’ health value
                                                                                  • Figure 20: Vegetarian dumpling, by Sanquan, China
                                                                                  • Figure 21: Red bean and Job’s tears porridge, by Wu Fang Zhai, China
                                                                              • Who’s Innovating?

                                                                                • Trend of using healthy vegetable oil
                                                                                  • Figure 22: Trends in ingredient claims in the ready meal market, China, Jan 2018-Jun 2019
                                                                                • Greater focus on the younger consumer market
                                                                                  • Figure 23: Trends in claims in ready meal market, China, Jan 2018-Jun 2019
                                                                              • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                • More women prefer exotic ready meals
                                                                                  • Ambient ready meals have advantage at breakfast occasions
                                                                                    • Premiumisation of sushi and lunchboxes
                                                                                    • Foods Purchased

                                                                                      • Big difference in penetration rates for different types of ready meals
                                                                                        • Figure 24: Foods purchased, China, April 2019
                                                                                      • Women show a higher preference for exotic ready meals
                                                                                        • Figure 25: Selected purchased ready meals, by gender, China, April 2019
                                                                                      • Sales strategy could be varied based on city tiers and regions
                                                                                        • Figure 26: Purchased ready meals, by city tier, China, April 2019
                                                                                        • Figure 27: Purchased ready meals, by region, China, April 2019
                                                                                    • Consumption Occasions

                                                                                      • Develop frozen ready meals based on different needs
                                                                                        • Figure 28: Consumption occasions, China, April 2019
                                                                                      • Ambient ready meals have advantage at breakfast occasion
                                                                                        • Figure 29: Freeze-dried congee breakfast pack, by Hai Fu Sheng, China
                                                                                      • Ambient ready meals brands could develop the late-night occasion
                                                                                        • Figure 30: Packaged ambient ready meals in a “late night canteen” food box, China
                                                                                        • Figure 31: Late-night food pack, by Bai Cao Wei, China
                                                                                    • Trading up Potential

                                                                                      • Going premium to differentiate from competitors
                                                                                        • Figure 32: Trading up potential, China, April 2019
                                                                                      • High trade up potential in Western-style frozen ready meals
                                                                                        • Figure 33: Comparison of “ready meal purchased” and “trade up potential”, China, April 2019
                                                                                        • Figure 34: Steak meal sets targeting different group of consumers, by Niu Da Chu, China
                                                                                      • Demand for introducing premium sushi and lunchbox
                                                                                      • General Attitudes/Habits

                                                                                        • Make breakfast ready meals more appealing
                                                                                          • Figure 35: General attitude/habit, China, April 2019
                                                                                          • Figure 36: Attitudes of consumers who think ready meals designed for breakfast would be appealing, China, April 2019
                                                                                        • Collaborate with potential platforms
                                                                                          • Figure 37: General attitude/habit, China, April 2019
                                                                                        • Develop single-serve size ready meals for 20-24s
                                                                                          • Figure 38: Agree that ready meals are a suitable option for dining alone, by age, China, April 2019
                                                                                          • Figure 39: All-in-one cooking devices, by Bear, China
                                                                                      • Factors associated with Health Value

                                                                                        • Consumers pay more attention to intrinsic factors
                                                                                          • Figure 40: Factors associated with health value, China, April 2019
                                                                                          • Figure 41: Oats with higher in iron claim, by Seamild, China
                                                                                        • Attention to short shelf life implies opportunities for chilled ready meals
                                                                                          • Upgrade ingredients to enhance the healthy image of local ready meals
                                                                                            • Figure 42: Selected factors associated with health value, by different ready meal buyers, China, April 2019
                                                                                        • Future Trends

                                                                                          • Filling snacks would become ready meals
                                                                                            • Figure 43: Consumption of and interest in ready meals and snacks, China, April 2019
                                                                                            • Figure 44: Users’ satisfaction rate, China, April 2019
                                                                                          • Highlight the strengths of and improve freeze-dried food
                                                                                            • Regional specialty snack brands could try to reach new consumers
                                                                                              • Figure 45: Non-users’ interest in trying, China, April 2019
                                                                                          • Meet the Mintropolitans

                                                                                            • Premium frozen ready meals have potential to grow in certain occasions
                                                                                              • Figure 46: Selected consumption occasions of frozen ready meals, by consumer classification, China, April 2019
                                                                                              • Figure 47: Selected frozen ready meals which consumers are willing to pay more for a premium variety, by consumers classification, China, April 2019
                                                                                            • Multi-pack ready meals would meet MinTs’ needs
                                                                                              • Figure 48: Habit - I prefer to buy family sized ready meals, China, April 2019
                                                                                          • Appendix – Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                              • Figure 49: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                                              • Figure 50: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                                          • Appendix – Market Segmentation

                                                                                            • Frozen Ready meal market
                                                                                              • Figure 51: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of frozen ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                                              • Figure 52: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of frozen ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                                            • Chilled Ready meal market
                                                                                              • Figure 53: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales value of chilled ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                                              • Figure 54: Best- and worst-case forecast for sales volume of chilled ready meal market, China, 2014-24
                                                                                          • Appendix – Methodology and Abbreviations

                                                                                            • Methodology
                                                                                              • Fan chart forecast
                                                                                                • Abbreviations