Busy consumers push up sales of cup noodles, frozen meals

Administrative assistant Nuraihan Kasman (right), 29, with a friend having tom yam-flavoured cup noodles for lunch at a 7-Eleven store in Gopeng Street. Supermarkets and convenience stores said sales of convenience foods have risen by about 3 per cen
Administrative assistant Nuraihan Kasman (right), 29, with a friend having tom yam-flavoured cup noodles for lunch at a 7-Eleven store in Gopeng Street. Supermarkets and convenience stores said sales of convenience foods have risen by about 3 per cent to 10 per cent in the last two years.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Time-starved consumers are increasingly tucking into convenience foods such as cup noodles and frozen meals to satisfy their hunger pangs.

Sales of such items - including things such as frozen pizza and microwavable briyani and pasta - have jumped by around 3 per cent to 10 per cent in the last two years at most supermarkets and convenience store chains here, including FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Prime Supermarket.

"The steady growth in sales suggests that perhaps with a busier and time-tight lifestyle, customers are more inclined to choose quick and easy solutions for some of their meals," said Mrs Mui-Kok Kah Wei, the senior director for purchasing and merchandising at FairPrice.

Frozen meals have also become more widely available now. Supermarket chain Sheng Siong started selling them in its stores in May to coincide with this year's World Cup, as people could eat them for a late-night snack.

These products need to be heated up - using a microwave, for instance - before they are ready to be eaten.

The company decided to continue selling these items - which include kim chi fried rice and laksa bee hoon - because most of its supermarkets are now open 24 hours and such products might appeal to the late-night crowd.

While sales of these frozen meals at Sheng Siong have remained stable over the last few months, its sales of instant noodles have risen by between 3 per cent and 5 per cent since 2012.

Its spokesman said: "Instant noodles has become comfort food for the younger generation."

Ms Tan Zi Jie, 26, a social media executive, said: "I eat instant noodles perhaps once a month when my mum does not cook. They are convenient and tasty and versatile too - you can add egg, peas and leftover meat."

Changing lifestyle patterns such as people sleeping later these days might also be factors, said a Prime Supermarket spokesman, who added that sales of instant noodles at its stores have gone up by around 5 per cent in the last two years.

In its report about the noodle industry in Singapore released in February, market research firm Euromonitor International said that around 10,710 tonnes of instant noodles were sold here last year, up from 10,208 tonnes in 2012. By 2018, this is expected to grow by 23 per cent to 13,174.9 tonnes.

Five packets of instant noodles here typically cost between $1.60 and $6.90, while a bowl or cup of it costs between 80 cents and $1.60. Some of the Nissin and Myojo instant noodles now cost around 5 per cent to 8 per cent more than they did two years ago, but there are no plans to increase prices next year, said their distributor, Nissin Foods (Asia).

For some individuals, even instant packet noodles are no longer convenient enough. Convenience store chain 7-Eleven no longer sells instant noodles in packets as the management had noticed that customers preferred cup noodles which can be eaten straight from the packaging.

Meanwhile, at FairPrice supermarkets, more people have been spotted buying bigger and bulk-sized packets of instant noodles, said Mrs Mui-Kok.

With more people here craving instant noodles, supermarkets and convenience stores have also noticed a growing preference for unique flavours instead of the usual chicken and seafood. These include XO seafood and Penang white curry as well as Japanese and Korean flavours such as spicy shrimp ramen and kim chi.

The appetite for unique flavours is growing because people here are becoming increasingly well-travelled, influenced by Korean and Japanese pop culture and appreciative of exotic food, said Ms Audrey Chia, assistant marketing manager for Nissin Foods (Asia).

cherylw@sph.com.sg