pre-packaged food in China

“Would you be willing to have pre-prepared food in a restaurant?”: Trending hashtag on Chinese social media

China’s pre-prepared food industry has been booming in recent years with a market size of 59.92 million RMB in 2022, forecasted to reach over a trillion RMB by 2026. Due to the economic and convenient aspects of pre-made food as well as a growing number of restaurant chains, it has become increasingly common for restaurants to opt for pre-prepared food instead of cooking from scratch in China. However, according to a survey conducted by (中新网) on #Would you be willing to have pre-prepared food in a restaurant# (在餐厅吃到预制菜你愿意吗) on Chinese social media Weibo in the 3rd week of June, over 84% of the respondents voted against it, showing a strong reluctance to eat pre-made food when dining out.

Convenience vs culinary heritage: Chinese consumers’ expectations of meals in restaurants

The concept of pre-prepared food is relatively new to Chinese consumers, since China has a long history and rich culture of eating freshly prepared food with an emphasis on freshness and subsequently rich flavors, arguably something pre-made food cannot yet promise to deliver. Additionally, due to China’s highly developed food delivery industry, consumers can easily get food delivered to their door or simply purchase pre-prepared products in a supermarket, meaning there is an underlying expectation of freshly cooked meals in a restaurant because of the extra time and effort they have to make it.

Netizens divided: economic concerns vs hygiene considerations for pre-prepared dishes

Source: Weibo, netizens commented on their willingness to have pre-prepared dishes in a restaurant

“It’s not worth spending a ton of money on pre-made dishes.” A netizen from Shaanxi commented. Another netizen from Guangdong seems to hold a more positive view on this, “Prepared dishes are more hygienic.”

Pre-prepared food in China: economic factors and shifting dining habits

  • The pre-prepared food market in China has experienced significant growth, with a projected market size of over a trillion RMB by 2026, driven by economic factors and convenience.
  • Chinese consumers have a strong preference for freshly prepared meals due to the country’s rich culinary history and emphasis on freshness and flavors. The prevalence of food delivery services and pre-made in supermarkets further reinforces the expectation of freshly cooked meals in restaurants.
  • A survey on Weibo revealed that over 84% of respondents expressed reluctance to consume pre-prepared food in restaurants, indicating a strong aversion to pre-made dishes when dining out. Economic concerns and hygiene considerations were among the factors influencing netizens’ opinions.

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