Ready-to-cook dishes becoming a hit for upcoming Spring Festival

A diverse range of ready-to-cook dishes are gaining popularity ahead of the upcoming Spring Festival, a traditional holiday for family gatherings.

Recently, Peng Bo, a resident of Chengdu city, southwest China’s Sichuan Province prepared a menu for his upcoming Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner, which is also known as “reunion dinner” and regarded as the most important meal of the year for Chinese.

Photo shows ready-to-cook New Year’s Eve dishes in a supermarket in Chengdu city, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Jan. 6, 2023. (China News Service/Zhang Lang)

“I mainly bought ready-to-cook dishes for the New Year’s Eve dinner,” Peng said, adding that although he and his wife are not good at cooking, the large variety of convenient ready-to-cook dishes available makes them feel confident in entertaining their relatives and friends.

While livestreamers have recently been advertising ready-to-cook meals on e-commerce platforms, brick-and-mortar supermarkets and malls are rolling out New Year’s Eve meals that are mainly made up of ready-to-cook dishes.

Hema Fresh, Alibaba’s fresh food chain, has launched a wide range of ready-to-cook dishes and taken reservations for reunion meals.

A customer selects ready-to-cook New Year’s Eve dishes in Chengdu city, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Jan. 6, 2023. (China News Service/Zhang Lang)

Walmart’s Sam’s Club has rolled out ready-to-cook traditional Chinese dishes and delicacies from countries and regions including the U.S., South Korea, and Japan.

He Yanhong, head of Hema Fresh’s restaurant chain Hema Gongfang in southwest China, said that sales of ready-to-cook New Year’s Eve meals in the region have gone up from last year. “We found that ready-to-cook dishes have become more suitable for New Year’s Eve dinner because they are easy to cook and are more eye-catching,” said He.

Sichuan Wangjiadu Food Co., Ltd. is a ready-to-cook food maker in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

“We began purchasing raw materials and making ready-to-cook dishes on Nov. 1, 2022. One month later, we put our products on the shelves, and they will be on sale until the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar year of the Rabbit. The total sales volume of ready-to-cook New Year’s Eve meals is expected to reach nearly 40 million yuan (about $5.9 million),” said Xu Yuanben, head of operations of the company’s plant.

Xu added that the company’s total sales volume in 2022 hit about 450 million yuan, more than half of which came from ready-to-cook dishes.

Photo taken on Jan. 6, 2023 shows a ready-to-cook New Year’s Eve dish purchased by a customer in Chengdu city, southwest China’s Sichuan Province. (China News Service/Zhang Lang)

The rise of ready-to-cook dishes reflects the industrialization of China’s catering sector, according to Wang Yi, a professor at the School of Business Administration under the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics.

Wang believes that ready-to-cook dishes need to be governed by standards and specifications to guarantee the quality and sound development of the industry. In addition, building efficient industrial and supply chains is also an important factor that will ensure the industry’s sustainable development.

According to statistics released by market consultancy company iiMedia Research, the size of China’s ready-to-cook dish market increased from 244.5 billion yuan in 2019 to 345.9 billion yuan in 2021, and is expected to reach 1.07 trillion yuan by 2026.

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