Annie Jiang
Research Analyst, Food and Drink, China

Stinky smell, just like the durian, River-snail noodles or Luosifen, this iconic dish in Liuzhou has conquered many food lovers in China for a while with its unique flavor. Meanwhile, it is one of the best-selling ready-to-serve food for stay-at-home foodies amid the epidemic in China. 

Luosifen becomes the popular flavor on some crossover foods

In fact, from Mintel’s observation, the conveniently packaged regional cuisines have broken down geographical borders and pushed local flavours to the general public, starting a steep incline in 2017. These regional cuisines typically offer pungent flavours to create an intense culinary experience, which aligns with Mintel trend, “Sense of the Intense.”

Young, high-income and high-frequency consumers of rice noodles and vermicelli are the main contributors to regional cuisines’ rising popularity. Mintel’s research shows that luosifen presents diversified online shopping habits amongst different age groups. It is the most commonly purchased regional cuisine through online channels amongst 18-29-year-olds, reaching more than half of consumers in this age group and only less than half of consumers aged 30-49.

Leading brands have captured this demographic with marketing campaigns on live streaming channels and social media. They have created fun and trendy IP images to lower the barriers to online communication. Product collaborations aiming to create a social media buzz can achieve synergized effects by pairing up with products with a strong online presence, such as luosifen.

Self-heating foods makes instant-food market keep growing

The instant foods market, including instant noodles and self-heating foods has been growing due to advances in technology in terms of product innovation and sales and distribution channels. The biggest change being the introduction of self-heating technology. Self-heating foods come in a variety of dishes that cover most traditional Chinese foods. At the same time, they offer consumers both convenience and a warm meal, as more than one in five of consumers who have not had light meals in the last 6 months listed not liking cold foods as a reason.

Meanwhile, major instant noodle producers have been trying to rid their products of the image of being a “cheap fix”. New technologies like freeze-drying and vacuum packaging have been widely accepted by consumers after years of education and are now synonymous with being “healthier”. Advanced manufacturing techniques help to preserve nutrition and digitalized logistics systems can help keep products fresh by minimizing the time it takes from factory to consumer. 

What We Think

COVID-19 acted as an unexpected catalyst to promote instant foods. Also, the expansions in online distribution and communication channels give start-ups and small businesses an opportunity to make their voices heard. It is for this reason that newcomers in self-heating foods and regional cuisines have stood a chance competing against established behemoths.