What brands can learn from Vietnam’s ready meal market

What brands can learn from Vietnam’s ready meal market

January 27, 2023
4 min read

What used to be known as TV dinners featuring foods that were edible but bland are now called ready meals and they are anything but tasteless. Instead, these ready meals are mostly appetising and flavourful and save consumers a lot of time and effort. 

The demand for ready meals is no longer just a Western thing. In Vietnam, the rise of convenience stores like FamilyMart, Circle K, GS 25, and Ministop cater to urban shoppers who want ready-to-eat food.  These stores rely heavily on high-traffic locations and on-the-go consumption and usually offer a modest selection of prepared food (which can be heated in a microwave) and drinks. 

These factors are what make it convenient for consumers, who are either professionals or students, to just drop by a convenience store and choose what to buy for lunch or dinner instead of actually cooking a meal, a process that entails shopping and food prep.

In September 2022, 57% of 1,000 consumers surveyed in Vietnam (from 54% in September 2021) said they were looking for food that’s easy to prepare or just needs to be heated in the microwave. Vietnam is considered a strong market for ready meals, with 85% of Vietnamese consumers saying they look for things that make their life easier.

Vietnamese food is still a favourite in the ready meals market even if interest in food from Japan and Korea is growing. With 71% of those surveyed agreeing that because food is the main way to connect to their culture/heritage, ready meals can be a way to preserve the culture through local cuisine. With 74% of Vietnamese saying they eat their main meal of the day alone. Cooking for one person is even more challenging because of the portion. 

The World Bank said Vietnam’s economy will grow by 7.5% in 2022 and the country’s ready meal sector is growing steadily with many avenues for improvement and further growth.

Here are the key areas in Vietnam’s ready meals industry for 2023:

Tapping into the Vietnamese culture and heritage

While those who buy ready meals from convenience stores and supermarkets also go for Western fare, such as sandwiches, pasta, and salads, 71% of Vietnamese people said food is a way to connect to their culture/heritage. Ready meals can be a way to preserve the country’s culture and heritage through local cuisine in modern times. Among the ready meals that can be found in Vietnamese convenience stores and supermarkets are the traditional Vietnamese sandwich bánh mì and fresh noodles with a choice of spices and condiments.

Healthy meals

The Vietnamese love fresh herbs and vegetables and there is always something leafy and crunchy on the table during every meal, be it bean sprouts or kohlrabi, a vegetable from the cabbage family. These vegetables and herbs can be included in ready meals like goi cuon (spring rolls), nộm đu đủ: (salad made with thinly sliced green papaya, carrots, many peanuts, sesame seeds, basil, and coriander), and bánh mì.

Meal kits

While the Vietnamese are looking for ready meals that they can just heat in the microwave, 31% of Vietnamese consumers are looking to buy more products that speed up meal preparation. What would likely work in this market, where most people eat alone either by choice or circumstance, is to offer packs where the ingredients, including condiments, are already pre-chopped and measured. That way, all the consumer needs to do is heat the pan, drop the ingredients, and wait for the dish to cook.

What we think

Consumers looking for convenient food post-pandemic will drive demand for ready meals. Brands can take a lesson from Vietnam’s ready meal market in offering healthier ready meals in addition to convenience, especially with the growth in convenience stores across both markets. Brands that offer ready meals inspired by local cuisine will appeal to consumers who connect with their culture through food.

Jolene Ng
Jolene Ng

Principal Food & Drink Analyst, APAC

 

Based in Singapore, Jolene has over 12 years of experience in the consumer goods industry. In her current role as Principal Food and Drink Analyst, Jolene explores global consumer trends, product innovation and market competition, and people management while also delivering presentations on trends and innovation in the food industry trade shows and forums. Jolene also specialises in a range of categories including salty snacks and baby food and milk.

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