Alibaba Group-owned Hema has seen a boom in “ready to cook, ready to heat, and ready to eat” food (“3R”) in China, according to CEO Hou Yi. Hou said “3R food” has become the core product in supermarkets, and Hema has started cooperation with food manufacturers and foodservice brands to develop more new products, reported Chinese National Radio.

Hema, also known as Freshippo, is Alibaba Group’s retail arm in China. The company launched over 20,000 new products last year, including about 6,000 products in its own brand.

Chinese consumption habits in foodservice have changed over the past few years, Hou said at the 2021 China catering conference on March 30.

“More than 30% of our customers are the post-90s and half of them without kids. Also, online shopping is accounted for over 60% of our sales,” he said.

Hou added that Hema continues to develop new products to fulfill consumers’ needs. Some special products, such as spicy steamed buns, fresh luncheon meat, and fresh crab meat mooncake, are selling well.

Last year, Hema saw a drop in sales of imported seafood during the pandemic, despite the demand for domestic products remaining solid, as previously reported by Undercurrent News.

Rachel Liu, Hema’s national seafood procurement expert, said Chinese consumers had paid more attention to food safety. Thus, Hema carried out weekly nucleic acid tests on all seafood products, and consumers can check and track products through the Hema app.

Also, more Chinese consumers prefer to cook and eat at home since the pandemic, said Hou. “Many young people expect to buy more pre-prepared foods and eat at home as they prefer not to spend too much time to cook.”

He said foodservice in supermarkets will become the mainstream in China. Hema has already started to explore central kitchen development and cooperate with foodservice brands to produce more “3R food”.

Meanwhile, Evergreen Conglomerate, one of China’s largest seafood manufacturers, has been selling more pre-prepared, ready-to-eat, and cook-at-home seafood products in China.

Dan Chen, chairman of Evergreen, said the company developed more value-added and ready-to-eat seafood, such as golden pomfret, tilapia, snakehead, pangasius, vannamei, to cope with consumers’ tastes in different regions in China, as previously reported by Undercurrent.

“Large-scale chain restaurants have to pay high rent and labor costs, and they cannot reserve a large area for the kitchen. This gives the seafood processing industry opportunities to supply pre-process ingredients for them,” said Chen.

According to industry experts, processed snakehead fillets have become one of the hottest “3R food” products in China, thanks to increasing demands for pickled fish hot-pot among Chinese diners, reported Seafood Guide.

Li Qiuguang, a seafood processor in Zhaoqing, said more restaurants purchase processed snakehead fillets instead of fresh, whole fishes. “Restaurant owners can reduce labor costs without cutting fish in the kitchen. Processing procedures move forward as upstream processing plants are replacing restaurants’ kitchens,” he said.