Busier lifestyles have driven consumers to ready-made products more frequently. However, the category has faced several setbacks over the years regarding its health properties and proximity to the contamination scandal. Dumplings, particularly, were hit with scandals in 2011 and 2019 when reports of African swine fever were found in frozen products.
According to recent research conducted by Innova, recovery for frozen dumplings has been quick, with the suggestion that the pandemic had propelled this recovery as the circumstances consumers found themselves in when it came to convenience cooking meant that many searches for easy, instant foods that could be stored efficiently to fit their needs.
The convenience of dumplings has won over many consumers who previously considered these products unhealthy and lacking the freshness desired when creating balanced 'homecooked’ meals.
Moving forward, the challenge will be retaining these customers, meaning manufacturers will have to invest more into innovating products to meet consumer trends and demands, primarily within eco and health-consciousness.
However, the market has already begun to respond to the growing demand for convenience, with microwavable meals doubling from five percent regarding new product development (NPD) in 2015 to 11 percent in 2019. This will continue to change as discernable consumers choose between what options over the most health benefits for value compared to other products when purchasing.
Evaluating the extent of the market, product launches of dumplings, wontons, and glutinous rice balls have increased at a CAGR of 12 percent from 2015 to 2019, with dumplings having the lion's share of these segments, accounting for close to two-thirds of launches.
Steamed buns represented a further 17 percent and showed the most robust and consistent growth in activity.
Innova's research also showed that authentic innovations in these categories were minimal. Despite this, several recognisable trends have influenced the category that can be seen. For example, pork has continued to be the most popular filling, but fish and seafood ingredients have gained significant traction. In recent years, vegetable fillings have become more prominent, partly due to the growing plant-based movement.
Western influence has also impacted the categories with products fusing Asian and Western ingredients for novelty flavours, as well as to appeal to a broader consumer base.
Premiumisation is also being demonstrated in using more specific ingredient types, and spices and seasonings are finding favour to add taste value and novelty.
Adding value will remain important, particularly for those new to the category.