China Food

Prefabricated dishes, new year’s Eve dinner, new year of the tiger! After the “Chef crisis”, the restaurant was besieged again?

How long can the tuyere last?

After the “Chef crisis”, the prefabricated dishes issued a battle paper to the offline restaurants.
New year’s Eve dinner is a meal of great significance for Chinese people in a year. The new year’s Eve dinner in well-known restaurants has always been difficult to get a ticket. Consumers need to book the number more than a month in advance to get what they want. Now, the family dinner has been locked and handled by prefabricated dishes.
Looking back on 2021, some people said that the rise of prefabricated dishes will affect the career development of chefs. In 2022, prefabricated dishes will be aggressive and take the lead to increase the size of new year’s Eve dinner and challenge offline restaurants.
At the end of December 2021, HEMA fresh fired the first shot and opened the new year dish reservation. Products such as Buddha jumping over the wall, family photos and seafood cafes have been launched. Compared with previous years, this is the first time that a box of horse fresh vegetables was arranged for new year’s dishes.
Before entering December, meituan shopping has also revealed to the outside world that it wants to cooperate with time-honored and high reputation restaurants such as Guangzhou restaurants and taotaoju to create a list of must eat for new year’s festivals. Subsequently, meituan shopping launched the “elephant Chef” X “must eat list” zone, and launched a series of home banquet prefabricated dishes that can be eaten by simple heating.
Online forces are on the stage, offline supermarkets are also making efforts, and dozens of new year’s Eve gift boxes of different brands are neatly stacked on the shelves. The 3kg gift box for 6-8 people has always been a best-selling product, and the prefabricated dishes for one person have also become the main promotion of supermarkets this year.
Different platforms and channels are striving to promote prefabricated dishes to the new year’s Eve dinner table.  

Since the first half of last year, Suzhou weizhixiang has been successfully listed, and a fire has lit the prefabricated dishes. Brands such as lixiangguo, Zhenwei xiaomeiyuan and xuweishi emerged, and then capital focused on this track. Several prefabricated food brands, including three meals and materials, have completed financing of tens of millions and billions of yuan.
In the outfield, Yuanqi forest, which is keen on cross-border, invested in maizima, a prefabricated vegetable brand focusing on family groups; Lu Zhengyao, who completed the “triple jump” in one year, also took his company to prepare vegetables, and will officially launch a new project “tip of the tongue workshop” after the year.
For the players who have entered the game one after another, what is in front of us is an inevitable frontal competition. All players want to appear on the stage at this family banquet and compete.
In this battle of strategists, can prefabricated dishes become the mainstream? Has the offline restaurant ushered in the strongest enemy in history?

“Integration war” of innovation, price and taste

The new year is the most critical time node for prefabricated vegetable players. Just as e-commerce platforms compete for the traffic of the Spring Festival Gala, prefabricated vegetable players are also competing for the C position of the new year’s Eve dinner table.
Both time-honored restaurant enterprises and new prefabricated dishes are pushing their own big dish gift boxes.
Prefabricated dishes occupying position C on the shelf can be seen everywhere in offline supermarkets. On the shelves of large chain supermarkets such as Sam, RT mart and BHG, big red packaged food products such as Buddha jumping wall, flower glue chicken and Babao rice have piled up into a mountain.

However, the gift boxes of new year dishes launched by many brands are basically inseparable from these hard dishes: Buddha jumping over the wall, pickled vegetable fish, flower glue chicken and lion head. Behind this, big data has a one-step insight into the minds of consumers. In the list of popular new year’s Eve meals released by Taobao, the above dishes have been listed for three consecutive years.
Although there are inevitable overlaps in dishes, new elements are also integrated. For example, the brand of simple meal, lixiangguo, introduced an innovative dish in its new year gift box – rattan pepper tiger skin crispy pig hoof bladder.
Lixiangguo told the food alliance that such innovation is based on the consideration of the taste differences between the north and the south. At present, there is no practice of rattan pepper taste hoof bladder on the market, and in recent years, rattan pepper taste food has been deeply loved by young consumers, taking into account innovation while retaining the flavor.
Obviously, “integration and innovation” has become a new keyword for prefabricated dishes.
However, the prices of prefabricated dishes of the same category on the market vary widely. These new year gift boxes standing on the tuyere are marked with 200-1000 yuan, and there are even “parallel goods” with 9 yuan and 9 postal packages.
The main reason for such cliff pricing is the difference of “materials”.
Take the prefabricated dish Buddha jumping over the wall as an example. This Fujian dish, which is almost sacred at the state banquet, needs to use abalone, sea cucumber, hoof tendon, cuttlefish, Yao Zhu and other ingredients. It also needs to be accompanied by chicken bone and duck rack soup, together with the local old wine in Fujian, boiled over a slow fire for more than 5 hours, so as to get the delicious taste of “meat from the altar floats around the neighbors, and the Buddha hears the abandonment of Zen jumping over the wall”.

The same is true of potted vegetables that are similar to Buddha jumping over the wall. Potted dishes are famous for their abundant materials. They are almost a necessary “town dish” for Guangdong People’s new year’s festival. In Hong Kong, even during non holiday periods, if you want to enjoy potted dishes in well-known restaurants, you need to make an appointment three days in advance.
Taking the potted vegetables of Lixiang country as an example, the gift box contains 12 kinds of food materials, and dry goods with high nutritional value are selected for the staple food materials, such as 20 Dalian dry abalone and Dalian light dry sea cucumber. Because they pay more attention to the ingredients themselves, they do not need food additives such as pigments and flavors.

Obviously, behind all kinds of “price wars”, there are bubbles, premium prices, and small businesses with small profit margins.
But in the final analysis, the final contest of prefabricated dishes is still in taste.
Previously, in the public impression, the pronoun of prefabricated dishes was “expensive and inedible cooking bag”. It can be seen that breaking the stereotype of consumers and making them willing to pay for the prefabricated dishes, restoring the authentic flavor and improving the quality of prefabricated dishes to the “Hall food level” is a must for new and old brands.
If you want to ensure the taste, you must pay attention to the technology. Even if we go to retail channels, balancing “industrialization” and “Chef skills” is still a serious issue for Chinese food.
Take Babao duck with complex production process as an example. The “bone removal procedure” is very exquisite. It not only needs to remove the bone of the whole duck, but also maintain a complete shape. To cover this demand, generally, only masters who have practiced for more than three years can give full play to the skill of bone removal.

Considering the cost of manpower, most retail retailers choose not to remove bones and fill the stuffing directly, which directly leads consumers to make complaints about “goods not to be on the board” and “not the smell of memory”.
Values often determine success or failure. Under the “fight” of innovation, price and taste, the competition between new and old players of prefabricated dishes is imminent. The new year’s dinner table seems to have become a battlefield for businesses to show their comprehensive strength.

Who’s paying for the prepared dishes?

Last year, there were five financing events at the prefabricated vegetable track. Although the number is small, the amount of a single round of financing exceeds ten million yuan.
Zhenwei Xiaomei garden has completed three financing within one year. Recently, it completed the B + round of financing, with an amount of more than 100 million yuan. Behind them are many well-known investment institutions such as zero one venture capital, Innovation workshop and Baidu venture capital.

After Lanzhou beef ramen, Chinese style baking and new hot brine, prefabricated dishes have become the “fourth phenomenon” of catering investment.
How long can the tuyere last? Will there be a bubble after the influx of capital?
It is worth mentioning that these brands that get financing have one thing in common. Without exception, they are all for C-end consumers.
Over the past 20 years or so, prefabricated dishes were mainly oriented to the B market, with the proportion of B end and C end accounting for 8:2. This situation was reversed after the epidemic.
Chinese and Western dim sum ready mixed powder, simple meal prefabricated dishes and semi-finished products emerge one after another. It even drives the hot sales of kitchenware such as air fryer and 10l-12l oven. According to the 2020 China home appliance market report, the annual retail volume of air fryer is 833.3 billion yuan, down 6.5% year-on-year in 2019. However, among small household appliances, air fryer is the only product with positive growth in retail sales in 2021.

Lazy economy and homestead culture are popular. Young people fed by takeout have gradually become the main force supporting the trillion yuan prefabricated vegetable market.
According to the data of AI media consulting, among the C-end users of prefabricated dishes, more than 80% are between the ages of 22-40, and nearly 60% are female users. In other words, the post-80s and post-90s are the main consumer groups of prefabricated dishes.
Many brands focus on “pleasing” young people and launch a large number of one person products. For example, the prefabricated food brand “food for one person”, suiwei lion, and the three meals that also put “food for one person and one-step cooking” in the first place.
In addition to single white-collar workers living alone in the first and second tier cities, families are also the target group of prefabricated food brands. A new trend is to subdivide the consumer groups and consumption scenes after all players enter.
For example, Lixiang country mainly develops new products around family dining tables. The main consumption scenarios include three meals a day and supper. At present, its products are mainly divided into three series: staple pasta, snacks and supplementary meals, trying to provide consumers with “an ideal simple meal”.
In November last year, Yuanqi forest strategy invested in a prefabricated vegetable brand called “maizima”, which defined the core consumer groups as white-collar workers and family Baoma aged 25-40. The main products are also home-made dishes such as tomato sirloin and boiled meat slices.
In terms of channel laying, many brands have broken through the single channel of online e-commerce and began to dig deep into the offline market.
Lixiangguo cooperates with large supermarkets in East and South China, such as Carrefour and Wal Mart, to launch its products at the same time.
There are also more radical players who build their own sales stores. Zhenwei xiaomeiyuan has opened more than ten stores in Shanghai and wants to run through the national business through the regional model.
Since the beginning of the establishment of the brand, we have decided to be a community chain franchise store, specializing in sinking the market. Including Lu Zhengyao’s Prefabricated vegetable project “tongue tip workshop”, which will also focus on offline retail stores and form a trend of encircling and suppressing the market by laying large-scale stores around the community.
Whether it’s chasing the preferences of young people or “pleasing” family members, all brands are trying to find their own place.
Although the playing methods are different, but “different paths lead to the same goal”, the final competition should review the more essential thing – products.

Do you want to make more mainstream dishes or more complex dishes?

It is not difficult for a brand to become popular.
In order to minimize the risk, most prefabricated food brands will choose to start from the mainstream categories to test the market.
Wonton, dumplings and crispy meat are the mainstream categories of prefabricated dishes, which are easy to make explosive products. Small wonton developed by HEMA workshop has always dominated the sales of HEMA fresh prefabricated vegetables.

At the beginning, Lixiang country also cut into the market with quick-frozen food, and successively launched mainstream prefabricated dishes such as chicken soup wonton, red oil old hemp hand copy, small crisp meat and so on. Among them, Lixiang chicken soup wonton won the top 1 of tmall’s hot selling list during the double 12 of last year.
After a single product enters the top 3 sales volume of e-commerce platform in this field, the popularity of the brand naturally starts. Relying on the logic of “being the mainstream first, then focusing on a single product and making it popular”, many rookie players have run out of this track.
After the income comes in, new problems also follow. Do you continue to make mainstream categories or invest a lot of money in developing more complex dishes?
It is reported that most of the product R & D teams in Lixiang country are professional catering people, senior veterans in the food field, and post-95 members who are familiar with new consumption and have a keen insight into the consumption habits of young people at present. Such a team carries out product research and development of multiple categories at the same time, and will make flexible adjustments in marketing according to festivals and e-commerce nodes.
In particular, making a choice between restoring local flavor and considering public taste may lead to the failure of early research and development. A more sensible approach is to launch diversified combination and innovative fusion dishes.
Wang Lin, the person in charge of Lixiang country, said that the work after the product is put into the market is equally important. Only by testing the market and collecting consumer feedback can we quickly iterate product research and development and continuously launch new products with the best flavor.  

R & D is destined to be a slow job. The effect will not be immediate, but it will make a sound in the growth of the brand.
On the cold chain, the rhythm is just the opposite. Who takes the lead in the cold chain means who has the ability to provide consumers with more timely and quality guaranteed services. It can be predicted that all brands will inevitably fight in the cold chain.
The rise of prefabricated dishes and the progress of cold flow logistics technology are indispensable. Cold chain logistics can ensure the freshness of prefabricated dishes and improve the sales radius.
The brand incubated by “frozen food online” group, a B2B platform of domestic cold chain food supply chain, has materials for three meals. With the accumulation of the hatching party in the field of frozen products at the B end for six years, the distribution frequency can basically achieve “one match a day” or even “two matches a day”.

Lixiangguo reuses the parent company’s best cold chain system in the industry, and cooperates with SF distribution to ensure that its products can be delivered to consumers with quality and freshness.
A senior industry insider said, “to maintain the vitality of prefabricated dishes, we mainly look at three dimensions: brand, supply chain and channel. In terms of channel, similar to the beverage industry, the more points of offline stores, the more favorable.”
This is not difficult to explain why fresh ready to serve platforms such as HEMA, dingdong and meituan are actively building their own prefabricated dish brands. However, these fresh food distribution platforms are not “exclusive”. While developing sub brands, they are also accepting other brands.
Channel and marketing are just playing methods and means. For the prefabricated dish brand facing the C-end, the product needs to take the lead if you want to win.
In the long run, prefabricated dishes will not be a short-lived demand. Although there is a long way to educate consumers, they have begun to show results.

*The pictures in the article come from the Internet; Original title: Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner with prefabricated vegetables is on fire! After the “Chef crisis”, the restaurant was besieged again?
Author: Food Alliance Research; Design: Zhao Yan; Source: Food Alliance Research (ID: canmengyj), reprint has been authorized.
Reprint authorization and media business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246); Join the community: Cherry (micro signal: 15240428449). foodaily daily food joined hands with the world’s top business and industrial partners to build fbic222 global food and beverage Innovation Conference & the first foodaily Expo daily food innovation Expo “new food era – brand ecology” in Shanghai from May 31 to June 2, 2022. We invite you to witness it together. (click the picture to see the detailed introduction). food people are “watching”

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