Demand for RTE meals has surged recently in China as fresh COVID-19 cases have compelled many consumers to stay at home, necessitating the purchase of such products, leading to current demand outstripping available supplies. Chinese consumers are scrambling to stock up food products given that many raw material prices have risen in recent months.
Major RTE food makers have reported a surge in sales – and more retailers, including e-commerce grocery platforms such as Freshippo, Missfresh, Meituan Maicai and Dingdong Maicai, have increased their investments in the sector. One example is Meituan Maicai which claimed that its sales of semi-cooked meals and pastries in 2021 increased by 4 times compared to similar period in 2020.
Currently, China’s RTE meal market is estimated at Rmb 300 billion (US$44.2 billion) in annual sales, and this will likely grow to Rmb 1 trillion (US$147 billion) in the next 6-7 years, according to a report from Shenzhen-based research firm AskCI Consulting.
Last year, several Chinese catering companies that make RTE foods went public. For instance, Suzhou Weizhixiang Food Co Ltd, which operates more than 1,600 stores nationwide, became the first listed Chinese company to make ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.