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11 Aug 2005

Industry

Instant Food: Thriving with Belt-Tightening Consumption Behavior

These days, instant foods are becoming more popular with Thais in their daily lives, where most people have to 'beat the clock'. Normally, the popularity of instant foods rises when consumers tend to tighten their purse strings. Among outstanding features of instant foods are their lower prices than other foods, easy and quick preparation, a wide variety of flavors and their long shelf life. By and large, the instant food business has exhibited steady and satisfactory growth, though competition has also been very intense. This is particularly true in the aspects of packaging, flavors and product quality. Of particular note, products have been developed to better serve consumers' needs in the midst of changing consumption behavior. For instance, with the prevailing trend where consumers are becoming more health-conscious, food producers have focused more on making products without the additive monosodium glutamate among their ingredients, and they have increased the use of healthier ingredients such as whole-wheat flour, etc.

In 2005, the market turnover for instant food in Thailand will likely total more than Bt11 billion, with growth of 5-7 percent. Among all the instant foods in the market, instant noodles are the most popular, with a market turnover that is the highest, and moderate but steady growth. Meanwhile, instant 'congee' (rice porridge) has gained the second most popular spot, and has experienced quite an interesting growth rate. Over the past five years, the market for instant congee has grown quite well, on average, and some companies have seen growth as high as 50 percent. Also, instant soups have begun to enter the market recently, and though this category is still small in the market, they are tending to grow well, and are expected to take a part of the market from imported canned soups.

Though the growth rate of the domestic market value has not been that high, it will certainly be worth watching to see the market trend when entrepreneurs begin to expand their export markets, relying on the popularity of Thai food overseas to penetrate them. Overseas markets are very large, and if consumers there become familiar with and accept such food exports, they will certainly do well there. With the current domestic trend of popularity for instant congee and instant soups, at present, more entrepreneurs are expanding in the market for instant foods, and this is considered a sign that instant foods in Thailand should be watched.

Industry