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In China, the large-scale, industrialized and standardized dish production mode is showing great substitution for the whole process cooking mode of families and various restaurants. The dishes produced in this way are prefabricated dishes.
Prefabricated dishes are not new.
Tracing back to history, the American prefabricated vegetable industry originated in the 1940s, while Japan originated in the 1950s. After decades of development, both the United States and Japan have grown into large-scale prefabricated vegetable enterprises with great influence in the world, such as Sysco, konigra, Tyson, Nippon, Kobe products, etc.
Their development trend and growth track add certainty and reference model to the development prospect of China’s Prefabricated vegetable industry.
However, in the case of multiple cuisines and a wide variety of dishes in China, how can prefabricated vegetable enterprises break through the regional shackles and go to the whole country? With imperfect market supervision and uneven development levels of enterprises in the industry, will food safety problems reappear? How to penetrate the C-end market when consumers are excluded? This is a unique problem faced by China’s Prefabricated vegetable enterprises at the current stage, and it is urgent to answer at the same time.
This paper attempts to take you into the prefabricated vegetable industry to explore the “appearance of all living beings” of enterprises under the outbreak of the industry and the characteristic development path of each family under the pain point of the industry.
1. Instead of dinner, the nutrition is reasonable
Prefabricated dishes refer to finished or semi-finished products made of agricultural, livestock, poultry and aquatic products with various auxiliary materials, which can be used as daily dinner after simple cooking or heating in accordance with the nutritional structure guided by the dietary guide for Chinese residents in the process of pre-processing (such as cutting, mixing, pickling, rolling, forming and seasoning).
Prefabricated dishes do not include all kinds of leisure foods such as pickled pepper and chicken feet, and instant noodles without referring to the nutritional structure of the dietary guide for Chinese residents.
2. Food safety risks still exist
Prefabricated dishes require professionals to conduct professional analysis on various dish raw materials through food industry practices, use different production methods for targeted research and development according to different characteristics of food materials, strictly control the content and proportion of oil, salt, sugar and various nutrients, and produce them centrally through the central kitchen; Scientific packaging to maintain the commercial sterile environment of dishes; Some dishes need rapid freezing technology and stored and transported at minus 18 degrees to ensure the freshness and taste of dishes in time.
However, in the current actual operation process, some enterprises use inferior food materials, the production is not standardized, the dishes are high in salt and fat, the packaging materials are unsafe, and the dishes are deteriorated.
Some prefabricated dishes also produce nitrite after seasoning, and repeated cooking or cooking time is too long, resulting in the destruction of folic acid and vitamin B12 in food by high temperature. Consumers have the risk of anemia and cancer after long-term consumption.
A black workshop producing cooking bags was exposed at CCTV’s March 15 evening party in 2018, and the production environment was very dirty. In the follow-up, some reporters took undercover photos and successively exposed a number of prefabricated vegetable enterprises that illegally used expired ingredients, scrambled rats and insects, and failed to meet the hygiene standards.
Due to the loopholes in the management system of some enterprises, the lack of social responsibility and the imperfect supervision, the prefabricated dishes in circulation in the market can not ensure that each can be fresh and healthy.
Overseas prefabricated vegetable market
Prefabricated dishes are developed from clean dishes.
Clean vegetables refer to fresh vegetable raw materials that are processed by grading, cleaning, peeling, cutting, disinfection and packaging to meet the hygienic requirements of direct cooking or raw food.
In the 1960s, clean vegetables were commercialized in the United States. By supplying the catering industry, restaurants, catering companies and other foreign food industries reduced labor costs, water and electricity costs and garbage disposal costs, and reduced kitchen area and equipment procurement. After that, some clean vegetable enterprises also retail for families and individuals, which facilitates residents’ daily cooking.
In the 1980s, the processing and distribution of clean vegetables also began to rise in Japan, Canada and some European countries.
1. Development history of American prefabricated food industry
According to the growth performance of the industry, the development process of American prefabricated vegetable industry can be divided into three stages:
Budding period (1940s-1950s): the development of catering industry brought about by the improvement of industrialization and population density, as well as the improvement of quick-frozen technology, stimulated the growth of quick-frozen food sales, and the compound growth rate of industry sales reached more than 35%.
Growth period (1950s-1970s): after the war, the “baby boomers” came to adulthood, bringing large-scale incremental demand for catering. In addition, American fast food giants were established one after another, forcing the standardization of food materials, which brought opportunities for the development of prefabricated dishes. During this period, the compound growth rate of prefabricated vegetable sales was more than 10%.
Mature period (1970s-1990s): with the increase of the penetration of prefabricated dishes in the catering industry and mass consumer market, the growth rate of the industry slows down. The compound growth rate of the overall sales volume of prefabricated vegetables was stable at about 1.5%
2. Market scale of American prefabricated food industry
In 2020, the market scale of American prefabricated vegetables was 45.4 billion US dollars.
1. According to the growth performance of the industry, the development process of Japan’s Prefabricated vegetable industry can be divided into four stages:
Budding period (1950s-1970s): the Japanese government’s strong support, the improvement of logistics cold chain and the development of modern commerce stimulated the sharp increase in the demand for frozen food. During this period, the compound annual growth rate of quick-frozen food revenue was more than 45%.
Growth period (1970s-1990s): the rapid development of Japan’s economy, the increase in the proportion of women going out to work and the progress of food technology have accelerated the penetration of prefabricated vegetables in BC, and the compound growth rate of the industry has reached more than 9%
Adjustment period (1990s – 2010s): after Japan’s economic bubble burst, residents’ income and consumption were affected, and dining out decreased. The recession of the catering industry has led to the stagnation of demand growth at the b-end of quick-frozen food. From 2000 to 2010, the per capita consumption of frozen prefabricated vegetables decreased from 9.73 kg to 9.23 kg.
Mature period (from 2010s to now): the aging population and the increase of single population have led to changes in family cooking habits, increased demand for reducing the difficulty of food cooking, and the consumption of prefabricated vegetables has resumed growth. In 2020, the per capita consumption of prefabricated vegetables will be 11.04 kg.
2. Market scale of Japanese prefabricated vegetable industry
In 2020, the size of Japan’s Prefabricated vegetable market was US $23.85 billion, with an industry penetration rate of more than 60%.
The top five enterprises in terms of market share are Nippon cold, maruyu, weizhisu, gabji and Japanese aquatic products. Nippon cold ranks first in terms of market share all the year round, and the market share fluctuates in the range of 20% – 24%.
3. Introduction to major participating enterprises in Japan’s Prefabricated vegetable industry
Development of China’s Prefabricated vegetable industry
（1） Development history of China’s Prefabricated vegetable industry
In the 1990s, with the entry of McDonald’s, KFC and other fast food restaurants, there were clean vegetable distribution and processing plants in China.
After 2000, deep-processing semi-finished vegetable enterprises began to emerge, but due to immature conditions, the overall development of the industry is relatively slow. Until 2014, the prefabricated vegetable industry entered a large-scale period at the b-end. By 2020, end C will usher in a period of accelerated consumption.
（2） Development background of China’s Prefabricated vegetable industry
(1) The improvement of residents’ income level lays an economic foundation for the consumption of prefabricated vegetables
From 2013 to 2019, the per capita disposable income of Chinese residents increased from 18311 yuan to 30733 yuan, with an average annual compound growth rate of 9.01%; The per capita disposable income of urban residents increased from 15780.76 yuan in 2008 to 42359 yuan in 2019, with a compound growth rate of 9.39%.
Under the background of rising income level, the per capita food consumption expenditure of Chinese residents shows an upward trend as a whole, and the diet structure is upgraded.
(2) With the change of life form in modern society, the demand for convenient food is increasing
More and more women enter the workplace, which objectively shortens the time for housework and cooking. Prefabricated dishes that don’t take much time and energy have become a great choice for family cooking.
In addition, the fast-paced life and work pressure lead to the lack of sufficient time and energy for workplace staff to make three meals, and the demand for prefabricated dishes increases. The impact of the epidemic in 2020 and the catalysis of house consumption will promote the popularization of consumption habits of prefabricated vegetables.
(3) Catering enterprises have increased demand for third-party OEM dishes
The advantages of using prefabricated dishes to replace the traditional cooking mode of food processing and cooking in the back kitchen are mainly reflected in:
1. Prefabricated vegetable enterprises can provide diversified product choices and enrich the combination of dishes;
2. The standardized production process of prefabricated vegetable enterprises can ensure the stability of dish taste;
3. Reduce the staff required by the back kitchen and improve the delivery speed.
The catering enterprises represented by chain catering began to gradually reach cooperation with prefabricated vegetable enterprises, which not only reduced the cost, but also avoided the cumbersome food material processing process, so that the restaurant concentrated resources and energy to create exclusive dishes and highlight the characteristics of the restaurant.
(4) Market scale of China’s Prefabricated vegetable industry
According to the data from 2011 to 2020, the registration of enterprises related to prefabricated dishes shows an upward trend. In 2015, it exceeded 4000 for the first time, and in 2018, it exceeded 8000 for the first time. Especially in 2020, 12500 new companies were registered, with a year-on-year increase of 9%.
China’s Prefabricated vegetable industry is in a period of market growth. According to the interview and research data of the food and beverage innovation camp, the current market scale of the domestic prefabricated vegetable industry is between 250-300 billion, more than 85% of the sales channels are concentrated in the b-end, and the penetration rate is about 8%.
With the hot domestic takeout market and the development of cold chain logistics and chain catering, the b-end procurement scale of prefabricated dishes is expected to reach more than 600 billion yuan in 2025, with a total market scale of more than trillion yuan.
From 2021 to 2025e, the income scale of prefabricated vegetables may reach 25% – 30%, and the market prospect is broad.
At present, the consumption market of prefabricated vegetables is mainly concentrated in the first and second tier cities. Among them, the first tier cities accounted for 45%, the second tier cities accounted for 20%, and the third tier cities accounted for 16%.
From the regional distribution of the prefabricated vegetable industry, the market in East China accounted for the largest 32% in 2021. Followed by South China, North China, southwest and central China, accounting for more than 10%.
(5) Financing of enterprises in the prefabricated vegetable industry
Since 2020, the field of prefabricated vegetables has been favored by capital. Many enterprises have obtained financing. There are many well-known VC institutions in the prefabricated vegetable industry. From the disclosed financing amount, the financing amount obtained by these enterprises is more than ten million.
In addition to start-up brands, many mature brands have entered the field of prefabricated dishes. Meizhou Dongpo, xinghualou, Xinya Cantonese restaurant, Hunan Hubei situation, Haidilao, etc. in the chain catering field; Sanquan, Zhengda and Anji brands in the field of food processing and manufacturing; Box horse fresh food, Ding Dong buy food, meituan buy food and daily excellent fresh food in the new retail field; There are also some enterprises whose main business is prefabricated dishes, such as weizhixiang, Xincong kitchen, haodeli, Huikang food, Jiayan food, etc.
（3） Industry case – Shuhai
Founded in June 2011, Shuhai supply chain is a catering supply chain service enterprise integrating sales, R & D, procurement, production, quality assurance, warehousing, transportation, information and finance. Once subordinate to the supply chain department of Haidilao group, he served Haidilao stores for many years. After accumulating certain food supply chain capacity, he broke away from Haidilao and completed independence.
Now it has provided overall food material supply chain solution services for more than 1500 catering chain brands and retail customers in China, with more than 8000 cooperative suppliers.
Shuhai supply chain has food processing centers, substrate processing plants, vegetable planting bases, mutton processing plants and other bases all over the country. It has the capacity of product R & D, procurement, production, quality assurance, warehousing and transportation, and can provide customized value-added services for customers.
At present, Shuhai has invested in the construction of four innovation R & D centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Dongguan and Wuhan, and has created a R & D team of nearly 50 people composed of senior experts in the industry such as national first-class chefs and famous chefs.
At present, Shuhai has more than 10000 SKUs and has developed a variety of semi-finished Chinese food products, including Chinese pickled conditioning products, semi-finished products, Chinese sauces, marinated products and frozen dishes, including fish flavored shredded meat, pickled fish, tomato fish, spicy clams, spicy shrimp and other dishes, which can provide a rich product portfolio to meet the diversified needs of catering.
At present, the company covers semi-finished products in the form of self construction / OEM. The gross profit margin of the overall processing link is about 15%, and the gross profit margin of some prefabricated vegetables is close to 30%.
Shuhai has served more than 1000 chain catering brands and won high-quality customers such as 7-11, jiumaojiu, a long time ago, Fengmao kebab. At the same time, Shuhai has signed a cooperation agreement with Bubugao to discuss cooperation in the aspects of clean vegetables, prefabricated vegetable factory scene optimization cooperation, front warehouse logistics cooperation, joint procurement of commercial products, building a joint sales platform, etc.
In order to show catering scenes and pictures, ingredients, cooking methods, tastes and vision, Shuhai began to promote innovation experience centers in large cities such as Shanghai and Guangdong.
The experience center has products and cooking places. Customers’ specific ideas on restaurant design can also realize immersive experience and promote catering enterprises and suppliers to reach an intention as soon as possible.
In addition to food materials, Shuhai also encourages equipment manufacturers to experiment and develop peripheral supplies and appliances in the innovation experience center.
Shuhai has seven logistics centers located in Shanghai, Beijing, Zhengzhou, Xi’an, Dongguan, Chengdu and Wuhan, as well as 35 warehouse distribution logistics centers covering the whole country. It also has a multi temperature area logistics center with a total area of more than 400000 square meters and more than 2000 refrigerated vehicles and normal temperature vehicles with a total transportation capacity of more than 2000 different models, creating a whole process cold chain logistics system radiating the whole country.
At present, the distribution covers more than 100 cities, with a daily throughput of about 1000 tons. In addition, there are food processing centers, substrate processing plants, vegetable planting bases, mutton processing plants and other bases. There are 800 vehicles allocated every day in China, of which 85% of the products are allocated every day. Outsourcing can allocate more than 2000 social vehicles, and the overall full load rate of the company is about 70%.
Shuhai conducts centralized procurement for upstream suppliers, and then sorts and processes products through its own storage system and central kitchen system. Downstream users can purchase these goods through Shuhai’s own B2B platform, and then Shuhai will deliver them through cold chain logistics.
（4） Industry status, trend and business suggestions
(1) Current industry pain points
1. It is greatly affected by the price fluctuation of raw materials
Direct materials account for a large proportion of the cost of prefabricated vegetables. The main and auxiliary materials are mainly agricultural, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery products. Meat, poultry and aquatic products usually account for more than 90% of the product cost.
As the output of meat, poultry and aquatic products is vulnerable to fluctuations caused by force majeure such as natural conditions, and because prefabricated vegetables mainly flow to end consumers and catering enterprises, the retail price of products usually does not change frequently, and the change of raw material cost in the short term will affect the profit level of the industry.
2. Cold chain logistics distribution capacity restricts the development of enterprises
As the use scenario of prefabricated dishes is in the family or restaurant kitchen, the downstream customers of the industry are scattered, and the quantity and variety of products ordered are different. The product distribution has the characteristics of small scale of a single customer, high distribution frequency, scattered customers in the region and high timeliness requirements.
In order to keep fresh, the transportation and distribution process of some prefabricated vegetables needs to be carried out in a low-temperature environment, and needs the support of advanced warehousing and logistics system and cold chain transportation technology.
At present, most enterprises in the industry are single production bases. The storage, logistics and cold chain transportation capacity restrict the product sales area and directly affect the business radiation range.
3. It is difficult to restore the taste of some dishes
The cooking taste of Chinese food is closely related to the freshness of ingredients and the cooking process. Dishes with light taste have higher requirements for the freshness of ingredients. Due to the loss in the process of transportation and storage, some dishes with light taste will not be presented perfectly. Therefore, at present, the industry mainly focuses on heavy taste prefabricated dishes.
In addition, some prefabricated dishes still need to be cooked by individuals or chefs. Different cooking skills will also affect the final taste of dishes.
4. Difficult to operate across regions
Due to China’s vast territory, large population and different types and abundance of products among regions, residents’ eating habits and tastes are inconsistent. Prefabricated vegetable enterprises originated in a certain region often have obvious regional labels, which makes it difficult to operate the market across regions.
Prefabricated vegetable products rely on cold chain transportation, logistics cost and product freshness requirements, which limit the product distribution radius of a single enterprise.
In the initial stage of entering the new region, it is difficult for prefabricated vegetable enterprises to form competitive advantages such as logistics distribution and scale effect. Consumers in the new region also need to spend time trying and accepting new products, and the best-selling products of enterprises may not bring the same benefits in some specific regions. It is very difficult for enterprises to operate across regions.
Prefabricated vegetable enterprises usually can only cover certain areas. At present, there is no national leading enterprise.
(2) Industry competition pattern
1. The degree of marketization is relatively high
Due to the relatively low entry threshold of the prefabricated vegetable industry, there are many enterprises in the industry, the degree of marketization of the industry is high and the competition is sufficient.
There are many small and medium-sized enterprises and individual industrial and commercial households of the same type in the prefabricated vegetable industry, most of which adopt workshop production, and the competition is fierce, resulting in a low overall gross profit margin of the industry.
At present, some enterprises in the industry have realized large-scale production, and the product quality management system is relatively perfect. The cost of raw material procurement and standardizing food safety is lower than that of other smaller enterprises in the same industry, and the profit level is relatively high.
2. Few large-scale enterprises
At present, most enterprises are workshop production and processing mode, and few enterprises reach the production level above scale. Workshop processors only supply a small number of customers, the product is single, the degree of standardization is low, and it is difficult to ensure food safety and quality. Some enterprises have begun to purchase automation equipment to realize large-scale production and have a certain regional popularity.
1. Product forms are increasingly diversified
Prefabricated food products are positioned as convenient and healthy dishes, which determines that its target consumer population is relatively young as a whole.
Modern catering forms are diverse, and young people are keen on emerging hot dishes, which urges semi-finished food enterprises to closely track the market dynamics, so as to grasp consumers’ tastes and preferences, and timely develop and launch products that cater to young people.
The industry has long been dominated by traditional Chinese dishes. In recent years, some enterprises have gradually launched popular forms of food products such as western food, fried food, hot-pot/" 22375 rel="nofollow" target="_self">hot pot and so on.
2. From focusing on channels to focusing on brand building
The main customers of prefabricated vegetable enterprises are franchisees in the region, including fresh food stores, farmers’ market vendors, supermarkets, etc. a small number of products are directly sold to restaurants and end consumers. Due to the offline retail form of franchisees, the coverage of consumers is small, and the promotion of products is limited.
With the continuous improvement of residents’ income, the substantial improvement of living standards and the obvious trend of upgrading residents’ consumption, consumers’ demand for prefabricated dishes has increased, and higher requirements are put forward for the quality, taste and nutrition of prefabricated dishes.
With higher brand awareness and better reputation, it is easy to win the trust of consumers. It has become an important means for enterprises to open the market and an effective way to obtain product premium.
At present, enterprises in the industry begin to pay attention to brand building and improve brand awareness by advertising, holding promotion activities and hiring spokesmen.
1. There is a risk of capital chain rupture
Prefabricated vegetable enterprises usually have multiple product lines, which should ensure the normal operation of product development, production, transportation and sales on each product line at the same time, with high operating costs. Once the capital chain breaks, it will have a significant adverse impact on the operation of enterprises.
Early entry enterprises such as young Caijun and our kitchen ended their operations due to the rupture of the capital chain.
2. There are food safety risks
In recent years, a series of food safety problems such as gutter oil, clenbuterol and excessive cadmium in rice have occurred in China, which has led to the enhancement of consumers’ awareness of food safety and rights protection, as well as the increasingly strict supervision of food safety by government departments.
At present, the production scale and development level of domestic prefabricated vegetable enterprises are uneven. Many enterprises still stay in the primary processing stage, with backward technology, poor production environment and low product quality, which can not effectively control the food safety of each process in the production link.
In addition, negligence or accidental events in any link such as procurement, production, transportation and sales, such as improper temperature control of cold storage, failure of transportation vehicles, traffic accidents, etc., also have the possibility of food safety problems.
If an enterprise has a food safety accident, the negative impact will affect the whole industry and cause serious damage to the industry image, product sales and consumer confidence.
At present, the market penetration of domestic prefabricated dishes is still low. Most catering enterprises and consumers do not know about prefabricated dishes and have not cultivated a certain frequency of consumption habits.
Participants need to develop products suitable for different scenarios, strengthen consumer awareness, launch targeted product advertisements to build brand awareness, complete market education and explore consumer potential by strengthening sales skills training for dealers and customers.
The formation of market consumption habits depends not only on excellent products, but also on a good social image.
Participants should build a more reliable food safety assurance system, strengthen quality control in all links such as raw material procurement and warehousing, product production and processing, warehousing and logistics, ensure that product quality meets the standards and eliminate food safety accidents.
In the future, the market demand for prefabricated vegetables will continue to rise. Improving the production capacity, output, business scale and logistics distribution capacity of enterprises will become an important development direction of participants.
Source: Lemon brand society, the consumer sector, reprinted with authorization. Reprint authorization and media business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246);
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