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Satiation and taste are key purchase barriers for light meals among urban Chinese consumers

13-Sep-2019

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

While eating light is now part of a trendy, healthy lifestyle, it seems Chinese consumers still have their reservations when it comes to light meals (eg congee, sandwiches, salad), with satiation and taste causing the most concern.

Indeed, latest research from the world’s leading market intelligence agency Mintel reveals that more than a third (36%) of urban Chinese respondents who have not or barely had light meals in the last six months* say that the reason for this is because they get hungry easily after consuming them, while three in 10 (29%) say that light meals lack the feeling of satiety.

Meanwhile, considering how flavours can stimulate the taste buds, one-third (32%) of Chinese respondents who have not or barely had light meals in the last six months* cite a lack of taste as a reason for rarely, or not, consuming light meals.

Belle Wang, Associate Food and Drink Analyst, Mintel China Reports, said:

“Light meals have started to trend in China due to consumers' growing awareness of healthy diets. However, satiation and lack of taste are the main stumbling blocks among Chinese consumers. In this light, brands can consider pairing light meals with a variety of ingredients that satisfy hunger, while also highlighting messages like ‘super full’ or ‘one bowl is enough’ to assuage any concerns around satiety. Addressing the taste issue, brands can look into developing a range of accompanying, flavourful sauces, or pairing light meals with sides. For instance, instead of being a main course, salads are typically looked upon as a side or starter. With this in mind, businesses can explore offering flavourful sides or appetisers in small amounts to pair with light main courses like salads as a way to enhance the taste.”

Driving increased popularity among Chinese consumers  

Mintel research reveals that almost two-thirds (63%) of Chinese respondents say that they are encouraged to buy a light meal if it contains nuts and seeds. This is followed by fruits, as well as grains, preferred by 59% of Chinese consumers respectively.

Along the lines of using side dishes to drive interest, light meals with healthy soft drinks can also encourage consumers’ uptake; over one-third of Chinese respondents say that they will buy a light meal set if there is yoghurt (39%), fresh fruit and vegetable juice (37%) or probiotic soft drinks (35%).

“Given that Chinese consumers are worried about feeling hungry after having light meals, brands can look at adding nuts, seeds, fruits as well as coarse grains to enhance feelings of satiety. Coarse grains, for example, are high in dietary fibre and easy to fill up on. In fact, our research shows that consumers have indicated that they will be more encouraged to buy a light meal if it contains such ingredients. In addition, light meals can also be paired with nutritious and functional beverages as a set. With health benefits being the main reason for having light meals, these product offering tactics will enhance the health benefits of light meals and also make them more filling—eliminating concerns around satiation.” Belle continued.

Opportunity for foodservice lies in workday lunch occasion

Finally, it seems the workday lunch occasion is where light meal foodservice businesses should focus their marketing efforts. Mintel research reveals that in the past six months*, over two in five urban Chinese respondents say that they have had home-made light meals for breakfast (44%) and dinner (42%) during workdays. Comparatively, just one in five (21%) have had home-made light meals during workday lunches in the same time period.

What is more, almost a third (31%) of light meal consumers say they have bought light meals from restaurants during the workday lunch occasion; this is higher than other channels including food delivery (29%), convenience stores (23%) or even those made at home (21%).

“Short lunch breaks are the reason why Chinese consumers tend to get their light meals from restaurants during the workday. Therefore, the light meals offered need to be convenient, nutritious and energy-boosting. Compared to convenience stores, restaurants offer more choices and seating areas. Consumers in China, especially management and white-collar workers, go to restaurants for the very purpose of stretching their legs after a sedentary morning at the office. They also choose to go to restaurants over food delivery because delivery times can be long and unreliable. In this case, restaurants need to improve the efficiency of in-store management to meet consumers’ expectations on eating time and environment.” Belle concluded.

*3,000 urban Chinese internet users aged 20-49, November 2018

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