JINAN, April 12 (Xinhua) -- While 35-year-old Dai Ji loves to host dinner parties, she does not have the same passion for cooking. Lucky for Dai, she can host without hassle thanks to the growing trend and availability of ready-made food.
"More people around me including my parents are showing an increasing appetite for ready-to-eat foods. Such dishes save me the trouble of cooking," said Dai, a resident of Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province.
The rising popularity of the "prefabricated food" industry has galvanized investors into the field in recent years.
"Back in 2017, we turned some of our restaurant's best-selling items into ready-made dishes, and it turned out to be a huge success," said Hou Mingjing, marketing director of Shandong Camry Commercial Group, a catering company.
During the weeklong Spring Festival holiday this year, the company sold close to 200,000 sets of their star product Fotiaoqiang, a traditional thick soup made of varieties of seafood and meat.
Meituan Maicai, an online grocery platform in China, reported that sales for prefabricated food in 2021 increased by four times compared with the previous year.
The growing trend has fueled the business of ready-to-eat food makers and bodes well for the long-term market.
China's current market size of prefabricated food is about 300 billion yuan (47 billion U.S. dollars), with the potential to expand to a trillion yuan in the next six to seven years and more than 3 trillion yuan in the long run, according to a report released by Shenzhen-based research firm AskCI Consulting.
Zheng Simin, chairwoman of Shandong Delisi Food Co., Ltd., believes that brand, quality, and innovation are the keys to winning in the prefabricated dish market. Delisi has established a research center, with more than 30 professionals specializing in ready-to-eat dishes.
"Consumers care about the taste, appearance and nutrition of such products. It needs the support of innovation and research," Zheng said.
Many local Chinese governments are tapping the massive market of ready-to-eat foods. In November 2021, the agricultural and rural affairs department of south China's Guangdong Province launched measures to rev up the prefabricated dish industry. In February, a ready-made meal industry association was established in Shandong Province.
Rady-to-eat dishes are in connection with rural revitalization and consumption reform, and such products will pull the transformation and upgrading of local agriculture and food industry, said Ding Ruiying, deputy director of the development and reform bureau of Zhucheng City, Shandong. ■