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Thai ready meals and side dishes are showing growth (+6% CAGR 2010-2022F), but despite this segmentation remains limited.

More consumers are buying in the category than leaving (28% v 23%; 2017-2018), and for those upping their intake, flavor is the main factor influencing their decision. However, its importance is falling, with consumers instead increasingly looking towards convenience and health attributes, the former being cited by 35% in 2018, a jump from 24% just one year earlier.

Given the nature of the product, it is perhaps unsurprising that convenience positionings are prominent in NPD and generally performing well. Health claims, however, remain limited, despite health-related factors representing four of the top ten factors that influence purchase decisions. Likewise, while no additives/preservatives is one the leading claims utilized by manufactures, this does not perhaps reflect the high importance consumers put on factors such as “natural” and “made with real ingredients” when making a purchase (cited by around 20% for each issue in 2018).

Thai flavors remain the most appealing

Consumers are looking for authentic ingredients and recipes and there has been little deviation away from this. While pan Asian flavors are making some impression (indeed Korean Kimchi and Korean were among the fastest growing flavors over 2015 to 2019), influences from beyond Asia (e.g. Italian, American) which are being seeing in neighboring Southeast Asian markets, have yet to gain momentum in Thailand with the local Tom Yum remaining a firm favorite.

Top 10 Trends impact on new product development

There is little evidence of how Innova’s Top Trends are being illustrated in this category. New product development remains very traditional both in recipe and in formulation. Consumers are demanding added convenience; this is being reflected by increasing numbers of products being placed to tap into busy lifestyles.

Being “easy to prepare” and packaging with a “microwavable tray” are widely used terms to appeal to consumers looking for a quick meal/snack when time is at a premium.

Launch numbers suggest dynamic growth for selected health and choice positionings, but these are from low bases and activity in the health and personalized nutrition arena is very much in its infancy – “gluten free” and “vegan” are perhaps in the best position to see increasing attention in this regard in the near future.

Consumer research showed that 17% of respondents purchase ready meals because they want “something indulgent” and premiumization in the category is being reflected by activity in higher end products, with manufacturers offering meals using organic sourcing, better quality ingredients and more upmarket packaging designs, for example.

More variation, new flavors and added health going forward

Instant noodles dominate the category (83% by value in 2018), but ready meals are one of the fastest growing subsectors (CARG +57% 2015-2019), and its continued growth should add more novelty and variety to the overall category. Ethical and health positionings could gain momentum, adding not only further segmentation, but also more variety for time pressed consumers.

Category Insider: Ready Meals & Side Dishes in Thailand is a new report from Innova Market Insights, which brings together consumer research looking at how and when consumers eat these products and what is influencing consumers’ ready meal purchases; how the market is performing; and, ways in which NPD is evolving to meet the changing needs of the marketplace and what is shaping future product development.


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