In addition to take-out and dine-in food, is there a third option for food workers?

"Have you eaten?" is the most common greeting in Chinese. However, for young people who are busy living alone in the city, there seems to be nothing to answer.

When placing an order for takeout, the most common choice is to order another order, throw the plastic and the remaining juice into the trash can.

Dining out may need to tolerate various side effects caused by high oil, high salt and more MSG, and be wary of environmental hygiene.

Cooking at home, oil, salt, sauce, vinegar, onion, ginger and garlic test the few patience after get off work. The thought of buying vegetables, washing vegetables, cooking and washing dishes makes people lose their appetite, and selling fresh vegetables in the market will not wait and the setting sun. People going home together.

"Going home for dinner" has changed from the daily routine to a luxury hope of the working day and a reward for the holidays. Therefore, in the triangle of cost, health, and emotion, "semi-finished dishes" have become a compromise solution. It is a matter of success and unwillingness. It is also an extremely efficient social division of labor and an old-style lifestyle war. "Christmas Eve on the Western Front of the First World War."

Three minutes, a bowl of fireworks

What is pyrotechnic gas? There are many flavors in the world, and one of them must be the smell of hot meals at home.

For young people working hard in the city, this is not an easy task. In addition to working hours of at least 8 hours, you have to endure a long commute time. According to data from the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, in 36 key cities across the country, more than 10 million people are suffering from commuting for more than 60 minutes, accounting for 13% of the commuting population. Whether you want to cook or not, time and energy are always the "blockers" in the kitchen.

At the same time, the 2020 epidemic has changed eating habits in the long term. The epidemic has stimulated more home cooking. People are gradually aware of the importance of healthy living and physical fitness in the process of paying attention to the epidemic and taking care of themselves. In the future, realizing convenient eating at home and ensuring safety and health may become one of the needs of young office workers.

Semi-finished dishes characterized by light cooking, want to be compatible with these, realize the coexistence of various elements such as convenience, home and health, so that young people can try the joy of cooking by themselves.

In a broad sense, semi-finished dishes can be regarded as a kind of convenient fast food. The concept of convenient and fast food has long gone beyond common convenience foods such as snail noodles, turkey noodles, instant noodles, and self-heating pots. It also includes ready-to-eat cooked food, heated and ready-to-eat instant dishes, and lightly cooked and ready-to-eat semi-finished dishes. Thanks to the maturity of cold chain logistics and quick-freezing technology, semi-finished dishes are fresher and more nutritious than traditional convenience foods, and they are cheaper than restaurants, and they are not difficult to make, so many people choose to try.

The survey data of the giant engine shows that in daily food and beverage consumption, nearly 40% (38%) of women and nearly 30% (28%) of men say that they often consume light-cooked semi-finished fast food. Mainly young consumers under the age of 40.

▲ Screenshot from: Giant Engine 2021 Food and Beverage Industry White Paper

In the first four months of this year, the number of people searching for semi-finished dishes and sales on Tmall exceeded those of the entire year. The top three were instant dishes, instant rice, and semi-finished meat. Many local cuisines have also spread across the country through light cooking, from Cantonese bon choi and Beijing roast duck to beef bones and sheep scorpion on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, Cantonese, Sichuan, Hunan, Shandong, Anhui, Su, Zhejiang, and Beijing cuisines. And other major cuisines and local signature dishes are constantly being prepared into dishes.

The major catering companies naturally smelled business opportunities.

Catering companies such as Dong Daojia, Yu Shihu, Xibei Noodle Village, and Xinya Cantonese Restaurant have launched their own semi-finished dishes on e-commerce platforms. One of the signature dishes of Xinya Cantonese Restaurant, "Pineapple Duck Slices", has a frozen shelf life of 270 days. It can be fried after thawing. The preparation time is 5-8 minutes. The unit price is more than 20 yuan, but the shipping cost is 12 yuan; Dong Daojia’s "Dong Dong Roast Duck" "It promises to be processed in an air fryer or microwave oven, it can be served in 5 minutes, and the taste and taste of dine-in can be maintained; the Sichuan restaurant "Yushihu", which is famous for selling pickled fish, has developed a frozen cooking package and heated at home 2 -3 minutes can make hot and delicious pickled cabbage fish dishes.

▲ Picture from: Xinya Food Flagship Store

Buyers' reviews on e-commerce platforms were mixed. The praises are similar, such as delicious, convenient, and fresh. The bad reviews reflect various problems, such as "Looking at the shelf life and finding that the inventory period is very long", "The quantity is too small to be worth the price", "It's all the taste of seasonings", and "Poor logistics and packaging." Therefore, when industry standards are not enough, safety and health are still doubtful.

Not only catering players, e-commerce and fresh new retail platforms are also promoters of semi-finished dishes.

In late March 2020, Hema specially established the 3R (Instant Cooking, Instant Heating, Instant Food) business unit; in November 2020, JD Fresh Co., Ltd. has cooperated with more than 400 online catering brands, and the total number of online catering fast food SKUs More than 5,000 new ones have been added; in March of this year, Dingdong Maicai opened a new sub-category of "One Table Dish" on the App, which was defined as "10-minute one table dishes, which is other than going to a restaurant to eat or take out." The third option".

An industry insider analyzed from an economic point of view : "Compared with takeaway and in-store meals, finished frozen vegetables are more cost-effective. After the dividend period of the takeaway platform, the increase in takeaway prices and delivery costs will gradually appear, and customers will naturally be diverted by 3R food. "For example, the finished quick-frozen vegetables in Xibei Shino Noodle Village are 20-30% cheaper than dine-in, which has sufficient price advantage.

Corresponding to the ingredients is the change of cooking tools. In the post-90s kitchen, the status of the steamer may have surpassed that of the wok.

According to Tmall Big Data, 22 million people searched Tmall for a single product on Tmall from January to April, and "post-90s" accounted for more than 50%. In the end, more than 12 million people bought induction cookers and more than 4.8 million people placed orders. After the steamer, 1.9 million people bought electric baking pans. On the whole, the most popular kitchen appliances are automatic woks, electric baking pans and mini rice cookers. New products such as multi-function cooking machines, smart egg beaters, and coffee machines are also becoming more and more popular.

Convenience, speed, intelligence, one person, and better health, these are the new requirements of contemporary young people for food materials and kitchen utensils. Faster pace of work and life has compressed the cooking time and cooking steps of contemporary young people. Light cooking is already an inevitable trend. From then on, it may also sweep family tables and large-scale chain restaurants, which will become more standardized and large-scale.

Semi-finished product subscription system, the stubbornness of an intermediate option

The advantage of semi-finished dishes is that they are convenient and fast, and how to match them is more nutritious, which is an advanced problem, and it is also a headache for people with "difficult choices".

The subscription-based weight management brand "Dong Chi", founded in 2017, features meal replacement "dinner", with "weight management" as the core, and provides 3 days and 21 days of periodic subscriptions through online subscriptions. The diet plan tells consumers how to eat. The ingredients are delivered to the home cold chain, and can be eaten after being heated in a microwave oven or boiled in water. At the Taobao flagship store, the “3-day meal” coupon is more than 200 yuan, an average of about 80 yuan a day; the “21-day meal” coupon is 1,300 yuan, an average of about 65 yuan a day.

▲ Picture from: Dong Chi flagship store

The slogan of Dong Chi Da is "don't go hungry, don't exercise, don't diet, delicious and easy to stick". It claims that the daily energy intake is equivalent to "2 hours of swimming, 7 kilometers of running, and 1 hour of skipping rope." In addition to ensuring the supply of basic ingredients, Dong Chi has also developed high-protein rice, plant-meat dumplings, high-protein noodles, non-fried technology, and extremely fast frozen reduced vegetables.

However, there are many comments like this in the comment area: "You will be hungry for one to two hours after eating, but keeping your mouth shut and eating honestly has a certain effect and is suitable for short-term weight loss." In other words, because of the large weight base and the amount of food. There are few double factors, and it is not certain that weight loss is eaten out. Some consumers also suspect that long-term consumption of such frozen products may cause health risks.

In fact, subscription-based delivery of meals is not new, and mature industries have already formed abroad. Representative brands include Tovala, Blue Apron, The Plated, Hello Fresh, and so on.

Blue Apron, which was founded in 2012, is very smart. They realize that consumers are more sensitive to the price of vegetables and fresh food. There is no advantage in "scraping", so they don't fight for the "richness" of ingredients. It is to fight for "uniqueness." It provides customized food ingredients based on recipes. Some dishes that are not common in the local market will appear in their customized recipes. But this also means that consumers have limited choices.

▲ Picture from: Blue Apron official website

After Blue Apron went public in 2017, revenue was dismal. The reason was that the user churn rate continued to increase, and the growth rate of users had exceeded the growth rate of orders. In other words, the user is here, but the stay is not long. Blue Apron has been using huge market launches to acquire new users to make up for the poor user retention rate and the difficulty in mining value. This mode of operation is very unhealthy, and even caused this regular subscription e-commerce company to fall into a vicious circle.

The root of the problem is that this type of semi-finished product subscription e-commerce is still used as an intermediate option for consumers to choose. The choice of dishes, application scenarios and market space are more limited than pure semi-finished products, take-out and dine-in, and customer acquisition costs and retention Customer costs are also higher. The weight management that Dongche tried so hard to promote may be to widen the gap with other brands, but it has not received particularly good user feedback. After all, weight management itself is an anti-human test of perseverance, but has the effect of persuading.

But one thing that is worth referring to is that in addition to nutrition and weight management, it pays attention to the social needs of users. For example, in the design of eel rice, in order to allow users to control the card at night, they can also have a simple cooking ceremony. Feeling, Dong Chi has made great efforts to spread the ingredients, and can produce an exquisite dinner that does not lose to the Japanese food store without cooking, attracting users to check in and share with friends.

Ever-changing, social needs always exist. How to achieve a balance between health management and eating experience should be the focus of many catering brands in the future, not limited to semi-finished product subscription e-commerce.

Spend more money and save more time

"Save time" is often the focus of the promotion of semi-finished dishes.

▲ Picture from: Tovala official website

On Tovala's official website, "more time to do other things", "We have helped users save 44 million minutes, how do you use your Tovala time" promotion can be seen everywhere, directly hitting the pain points of office workers. But this is also another kind of sales anxiety, which seems to be too utilitarian.

Time is indeed an objective factor, but if you can save the time of buying vegetables, washing vegetables, and cleaning, and only do cooking and seasoning, perhaps most people are willing to spend time, and even think this is a joy. thing. But this is impractical for busy young people living alone. So there are customers in cooking classrooms and experience kitchens.

For example, the ABC Cooking Studio that Ai Faner wrote before, when you come to the cooking table, all the ingredients and kitchen utensils you need are ready, you only need to enjoy the most essential part, without having to do homework and purchase beforehand. Don’t bother to tidy up the cooking table. If you are taking a baking experience course, mix and stir the already weighed ingredients under the guidance of the teacher; if it is a fried dish, you basically only need to adjust the seasoning, handle the dishes, and cook. After finishing, you can also take photos and upload to show the cooking skills, and take the finished products to communicate, share and interact with friends. Compared with the semi-finished products of our own kitchen, the cooking class has more practical experience, but the price is more expensive and difficult to replicate at home.

Frankly speaking, this basically has little to do with eating, it is more like a life experience and entertainment and relaxation.

The fundamental reason is that young people who work and live in cities usually have more important things to deal with than cooking. After leisure, cooking is still too costly, lagging behind other options for self-improvement or easier leisure fun. Young people would rather spend what they think is worth the money and save time to get the experience they want.

Buying processed happiness and exquisiteness, spending money to avoid the cumbersome and troublesome daily life, and creating a beautiful life in the social circle are common ways of consumption for urban young people.

Similarly, smart kitchen utensils such as capsule coffee machines are not cheap, but they can meet the immediate coffee needs. You don’t need to spend time grinding beans, you don’t need to wait for a cup of coffee to drip out, and you don’t need to clean the coffee machine frequently. Can be completed quickly and the level is relatively stable, so there are many audiences. Hourglasses, French presses, and siphon pots are coffee utensils that test craftsmanship. They emphasize the importance of the ingenuity of the maker and the connotation of coffee, but they are not suitable for everyone or every occasion. Moreover, according to Tmall big data, people who have bought coffee machines will also pay attention to coffee cups, tablecloths and even chairs for drinking coffee. On home social platforms, capsule coffee machines are a dazzling embellishment in the kitchen. Businesses have keenly grasped the association.

Everyone has their own needs, but the combination of practicality and aesthetics, and the instant and easy availability of a sense of accomplishment can often reap the favor and pockets of most people.

Fast food is here, do you want to continue cooking?

Semi-finished dishes, cooking classrooms, smart kitchen utensils… Although it caters to people who are too busy to cook but want to prepare food, it meets many needs such as efficiency, convenience, and social interaction, but after a long time, it may be There is a feeling of being engulfed by industrial assembly lines and consumerism.

Nowadays, major catering companies are improving their supply chains, building logistics distribution centers and central kitchens, and turning more and more signature dishes into branded 3R foods. The pace of retailing catering is accelerating, and the standardization process capabilities of Chinese food are gradually becoming mature.

Not only semi-finished dishes online, many restaurants have also moved toward industrialization and fast food.

There was a popular post on Zhihu, "Why are you eating hot pot instead of stir-fried dishes?" Zhihu's answering friend answered "Pear Flower and Tiger". The underlying reason is that capital pursues standardization and rapid replication, and how much capital invests in catering projects. One requirement is a central kitchen, centralized distribution, semi-finished products, and quantifiable. All these conditions are met, that is, hot pot.

When it's hard to adjust, it's not wrong to choose hot pot. For consumers, there are more seasonings, the taste is not bad, the meal is fast, and the chat atmosphere is good. For merchants, hot pot has high profits, low technology content, fast food, and easy to move models. Most of the things in hot pot restaurants can be done by one person, and celebrities also get together to open hot pot restaurants. Variations of hot pot, such as grilled fish and steamed chicken in tin foil, are the same.

Many chain restaurants are opened in large shopping malls, and there is no space to build a large kitchen, and most of them are instant hot products. When the order ordered by the guest arrives in the kitchen, the chef takes out the semi-finished product and performs follow-up operations. For example, the two dishes "Jintang Pickled Fish" and "Jintang Beef" use the same main ingredient-golden soup chutney. A bottle of 4 catties costs only 45 yuan for Taobao. When the chef cooks these two dishes, his main job is to code the meat slices, and 2 minutes is enough for the whole process. Of course, not all back kitchens operate in this way, but there are indeed many semi-finished dishes that are replacing traditional craftsmanship.

Whether it is semi-finished food or the industrialization trend of restaurants, in the final analysis, it is all about simplifying the steps of cooking and adapting to the fast-paced life for higher efficiency and good taste.

It's just that everyone's tastes are very different, and quantitative and standardized ingredients may not satisfy everyone. "Don't urge him until he knows himself well. He is beautiful when he is warm enough." This is the yearning engraved in our genes. In many cases, it's not that we don't like cooking, or we really like fast food, but the environment makes us passively accept fast food.

Due to the limitations of life and work, we inevitably rely on high-efficiency consumption and actively embrace industrialization with various purchasing behaviors. The market is also happy to see this, launching more products to promote a more efficient market, the purpose of capital has always been the same, just like many Internet people will make a complete set of marketing plans for lying-ping learning. There are also many people who absolutely do not bow their heads to deliveries and fast food. For these people, cooking is not a daily chore, but a thing that adds to the joy of life. This is indeed very enviable.

Grapes are not the only fruit.

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