Daisy Li
Daisy is an Associate Director with the Mintel Food & Drink team, speciliasing in the China market. She monitors and reports on the latest innovation and trends impacting the Chinese food and drink market.

Light meals are becoming increasingly trendy in China, and are especially well-received among white-collar workers in top-tier cities who are often striving to maintain a healthy weight. This trend is indicative of Chinese consumers’ desire to eat healthily.

The concept of light meals originated in Western restaurants, taking the form of salads and small dishes containing a variety of vegetables, lightly cooked meats and nutritious grains and nuts. New Mintel research on western-style fast food reveals that nearly half of urban Chinese consumers have ordered light meals in Western-style fast food restaurants.

Today, the light meal healthy-eating concept has evolved out of the foodservice channel, and Chinese consumers are now looking to replicate such meals at home.

Sauce brands and manufacturers can ride the trend for light meal eating by helping consumers emulate their favourite dishes at home.They can cater to consumers’ desire for healthy eating in both local and Western cuisines by introducing innovations that help them make clean, nutritious and low-calorie meals themselves.

Help with weight management

Light meals are an ideal solution for people who are dieting or attempting to control their weight. As many as three in five urban Chinese consumers regard ‘low in calories’ as a purchase trigger for light meals. Unlike traditional Chinese dishes—many of which are stir-fried with oil and seasonings—light meals require minimal preparation, and are fresh and nutritious.

Such meals have appeal among those pursuing active lifestyles. In fact, Mintel research reveals that nearly a third of urban Chinese consumers who exercise or do sports are spending more on healthy salads, indicating the opportunities present for sauce manufacturers to create low-calorie variants.

Topvalu’ 50% Calorie-Reduced Cheese Caesar Salad Dressing, Japan
This salad dressing product contains 50% less calories than the brand’s regular cheese Caesar salad dressing.

Femmy’s Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Indonesia
This product is said to help control cholesterol. It works as an anti-inflammatory to help reduce arthritis, accelerate weight loss and maintain weight control.

Develop sauces to emulate Chinese-style light meals

Many local Chinese dishes have the potential to tap into the light meal concept. Noodles, grains and rice, and boiled vegetables can all be made to fit into the light meal concept with their low-calorie, high-fibre positioning, and pleasant, light flavour.

Mintel research shows that Chinese consumers are preparing light meals at home, more so during the breakfast and dinner occasions. In this light, sauces that help consumers make Chinese-style light meals at home hold strong potential—and sauce brands and manufacturers in China can look at countries like Japan for inspiration when it comes to creating sauces for light, healthy at-home cooking.

Kikkoman Hakko Dashi Somen Noodle Sauce, Japan
This product features fermented broth made with bonito flakes and okara soy pulp, as well as a mix of Japanese fish flakes, including bonito, auxis, tuna and sardine flakes, for an umami flavour.

S&B Napolitan Pasta Sauce with Colourful Vegetables, Japan
This Napolitan pasta sauce is made with 12 vegetables including sour ripe tomatoes, as well as the umami of bacon and onions. It contains one third of the recommended daily intake of vegetables.