Single-dish frozen meals are very popular; New recipes and reasonable prices attract new customers

Single-dish frozen meals are very popular;  New recipes and reasonable prices attract new customers

Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuka Sakai takes a meal out of the refrigerator in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Frozen portioned tray meals containing a main dish with sides delight people of all ages as a quick and easy way to ensure a balanced nutritional intake.

Frozen food makers have been introducing new products one after another recently, giving consumers a wide range of choices, from premium fresh frozen pasta to a delicious rice bowl and noodle set.

Yuka Sakai, 51, an office worker in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, has a refrigerator full of frozen meals.

“I used to heat the main dish and sides separately, but they can be microwaved all at once, which is convenient,” she said. “I use it when I’m busy or don’t feel like cooking.”

Sakai’s 79-year-old father recommended it to her for the summer.

She said she felt safe knowing he was eating it because “it doesn’t need fire to cook it.

“Older people can eat a balanced meal this way,” Sasaki said.

In September, Nichirei Foods Inc. “Three Star Dish” series. The selling point of the chain is fresh frozen pasta. Main courses – from hamburger steak, fried chicken or fried chicken with tartar sauce – all come with accompanying pasta and sauce.

“We have installed new equipment for pasta, which is frozen immediately after boiling, so we can get its distinctive sticky texture,” said an official at Nichiri.

Nippn Corp., which has long been in the portioned tray frozen meals business, released its hamburger steak and pasta range as part of its “Yokubari Series” (Greedy Series) in 2015. It then expanded the series with a range of rice dishes, such as clam rice with Mackerel cooked in miso. The total number of products in the series is 15 varieties, including dishes from Western, Japanese and Chinese cuisines.

Rice products use more than 10 ingredients and are very popular among women and the elderly. In September, it released a range of delicious noodles without mazesoba and pork rice, which are very popular among male consumers.

The company’s split meals have gained popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, and have been appreciated as a way to grab a quick lunch. Sales have increased tenfold since 2015.

Nissui released its “Manzuku Platter” (satisfying dish) series in September 2022. The set meal comes with rice and one of four main courses – hamburger steak, ginger pork, fried chicken with tartar sauce or mapo tofu – and the celebrity chefs have participated in Create it.

Pictures of Yomiuri Shimbun
Top: Hamburger steak and ketchup-marinated pasta from Nichirei Foods. Middle: Nippn Corp. seasoned rice. Fried chicken and vegetables with black vinegar sauce. Bottom: Nissui Corp. Ginger Pork Rice.

It’s affordable too. In the face of rising food prices across the board, these frozen meals cost less than 500 yen. While frozen foods are often purchased as a stock item, portioned meals are often purchased as a meal to eat that day, much like a bento lunch box at a convenience store.

Advances in freezing technology have allowed makers to come up with more combinations. They designed the packaging so that steam circulates within the container, preventing uneven heating of meals.

The frozen meals market grew from 1.1 billion yen in 2017 to 6.2 billion yen in 2022, according to private research firm Intage Inc.

“The main consumers are in their teens and 20s, but I think frozen meals will be accepted by middle-aged and older consumers who are aware of nutritional balance,” said Toshimitsu Keiji, an analyst at Intage. “The belief that frozen meals are lazy is fading, and the variety of items has delighted customers and will increase their demand.”

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