Asia’s biggest food producer offers dial-a-hotpot as palettes grow weary of instant noodles

Uni-President, Asia’s biggest food producer and Taiwanese instant noodle major, started selling instant hotpot on e-commerce platforms this month as it targets more premium consumers.

Instant hotpot, which uses a heat pack that can be activated with room temperature water to steam a small serving of hotpot, is already being sold by hotpot makers and restaurants on e-commerce platforms. Similar offerings can be found from rivals such as Xiao Long Kan, an instant hotpot maker, and hotpot chain restaurant operator, Hai Di Lao Hot Pot.

Uni-President’s hotpot is available on Tmall, the business-to-consumer marketplace operated by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, Yihaodian and Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Jason Yu, general manager at market research company Kantar Worldpanel for Greater China, said instant noodle giants such as Uni-President will try to sell more premium products as they seek higher margins and cope with the “go upscale” trend among consumers. “Instant hotpot comes as an extension of convenience food consumption occasions,” he said. “Convenience food makers enjoy synergy on distribution networks thanks to their years of experience.”

The drink and instant noodle major ran a five-day promotion on Tmall last week, with 500 packs of instant hotpot available for a fourth of their original price of 39.9 yuan each.

Shanghai resident Qiu Shanshan is a fan of instant hotpot who has already tried other brand’s self-heating hotpot.

China’s growing middle class lose appetite for instant noodles

“It’s tasty and convenient, as it saves me the trouble of cooking,” said the white-collar worker in her 30s. “I have also recommended it to friends to try, and I will keep buying this product.”

Convenience food makers enjoy synergy on distribution networks thanks to their years of experience

Jason Yu, general manager Greater China, Kantar Worldpanel

Another consumer, Brenda Sun, said the idea of instant hotpot did not resonate with her, as she preferred having the meal with a group of friends in a restaurant.

Besides instant noodles and beverages, Uni-President also operates franchises such as Starbucks cafes and Mister Donut shops, as well as the 7-Eleven and Carrefour chains in Taiwan.

Sales of instant noodles picked up in China last year, rising by 6 per cent in value in the 52 weeks ending in October 2017, up from an increase of 2 per cent a year ago, as more premium products were sold, according to data from Kantar.

By volume, it grew by 2 per cent, turning around from a drop of 4.7 per cent a year ago.

Kantar has not tracked the sales of instant hotpot yet.

The mainland’s and Hong Kong’s demand for instant noodles declined by 17 per cent to 38.5 billion servings in 2016, from 46.2 billion servings in 2013, according to data from the World Instant Noodles Association.

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