Frozen ready-to-eat food business is worth watching. Domestically, the frozen ready-to-eat food market has grown steadily thanks to response as a result of changing consumer behavior. In the midst of busy urban life, most consumers have turned to ready-to-eat foods that are more convenient, affordable and now offer a wide variety of selections, including staple foods, confectioneries and baked goods. Both long-established and new producers of frozen ready-to-eat meals have jumped onto the bandwagon, adding new varieties and frozen versions as part of their strategies to expand market and distribution channels to better access target customers.
Competition in the frozen ready-to-eat foods market at home has become more intense. Proliferation of distribution channels has been seen in a bid to gain greater access to target groups. Previously, frozen ready-to-eat meals were mainly offered at supermarkets and convenience stores. During recent years, the market value of frozen ready-to-eat meals has leapfrogged. As far as estimates go, the market turnover for these products in the year to come is expected will reach THB3 billion, up 30.0 percent.
Previously, time-saving convenience in preparing food was the most attractive consideration toward buying frozen foods. However, amid the current health-conscious trend, consumers have also taken the ;quality” and ;hygiene” of foods into account. As a result, most producers are paying greater attention to production processes and are using this care as a selling point to attract consumers. Sources of ingredients, freshness and freedom from chemical residues have become matters of paramount importance in producing frozen ready-to-eat foods. This health consciousness has also created a new market or ‘ambient foods'* (prepared foods) which are very popular overseas and are gaining popularity in Thailand as well. These foods have been prepared but are not cooked or ready to eat, which are chilled or frozen during processing and need cooking before consumption. The tendency shows that this type of food will gain more popularity and it is projected that many new items will become available to meet the needs of consumers. At present, chilled, frozen and ambient foods are often foreign cuisine, e.g., pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, etc., whose food characteristics are appropriate to prepare as chilled, frozen or ambient goods. It is forecast that chilled, ready-to-eat foods, i.e., western style selections, will become more popular among Thais as some enjoy western food. The growth trend of ambient food is moving in the same direction as the overall overseas market. Though the market turnover for ambient foods is at present lower than for frozen, ready-to-eat foods, this category has shown quite interesting market expansion.
Apart from the growing market at home, exports of frozen, ready-to-eat food are also exhibiting growth by relying on the acceptance of them in both the flavor and nutritional value of Thai food internationally. Exporting frozen, ready-to-eat food will close the marketing gap abroad for those who want to eat Thai food but do not go to Thai restaurants overseas. Therefore, exporting frozen, ready-to-eat foods will be able to meet consumption demand at the household level, or become an alternative menu for people of other lands, which will also help to further broaden the Thai food market.
* Foods that can be kept at room temperature.