Booming semi-finished food market and appetite of young Chinese
2022-01-19 09:30     Source : CGTN

The definition of cooking has been changing over the past few years. After a day of tiring work, some young Chinese are turning to self-heating instant meals, saving time and energy of buying grocery, preparing meals and washing the dishes.

Semi-finished food products are developed from minimally processed vegetables – they're washed, chopped and processed without loosing their freshness. A similar approach is also used for a variety of mixed dishes that are frozen or vacuum-packed for storage. They are ready to eat after heating.

In 2020, semi-finished food sales in China increased by 111 percent year on year, while sales of some new forms of instant food like self-heating hot pot increased by more than 50 percent, according to statistics from China's e-commerce platform Tmall.

Guo Yu, a millennial living in Beijing, used to buy self-heating hot pots often. It only needs a few steps to prepare: Pour the ingredients into the inter tray, add cold water into the outer bowl, put the lid on. Wait for 15 minutes and a hot pot is ready. However, her curiosity quickly faded.

"It is too salty and I'm afraid that it is not healthy as there may be many preservatives," said Guo. "Now I go to the supermarket and buy fresh vegetables and meat, and prepare sauces if I have time."

In a small-scale survey conducted by CGTN, 66 percent of 174 respondents knew a little about semi-finished food products, 30 percent knew nothing about them and the remaining 4 percent were very familiar with them. As many as 67 percent said they bought semi-finished food products when suitable, 32 percent did it occasionally, while only 1 percent bought it often. And, 85 percent answered "no" while 15 percent said "yes" when asked whether they would buy the semi-finished for the upcoming reunion dinner of the Spring Festival eve. 

In multiple-choice questions on reasons for purchasing semi-finished food products, 88 percent cited convenience, 17 percent said they felt curious and wanted to try it, while 8 percent termed it nutritionally balanced. When asked about their concerns, 86 percent said they were worried about food safety, including whether the ingredients are fresh enough and whether the production process is hygienic, 53 percent cared about the price, 38 percent were skeptical about the cooking process, and 29 percent cited the limited variety of semi-finished foods.

"The whole production process should be transparent, and text and graphic explanations related to commodities easy for consumers to understand," said a staff member in charge of semi-finished food products at RT-Mart. "The ingredients for our semi-finished food products must meet food safety standards and can be traceable. And their suppliers must have certain qualifications."

Editor: Zheng Sihui