The Shift to Home Meal Replacement Consumption in Convenience Stores

Taiwan represents one of the most advanced markets for convenience stores. It has the world’s highest density of convenience stores per person. Moreover, the business model of convenience stores in Taiwan is not only sophisticated but also continuingly evolving. Because convenience stores can be found almost everywhere in Taiwan, they have many opportunities to offer very diverse product and services. Therefore, the changes that happened in Taiwan’s convenience stores may provide some insight to managers in other countries. And right now, Home Meal Replacement (HMR) is the new power for the sales growth of convenience stories in Taiwan.

HMR is “a meal taken directly or through a brief cooking process in convenience stores or at home by purchasing ready to eat or ready to end-cook type of food.” (Jang, Kim, & Yang, 2011) Although HMR has been introduced in supermarkets for more than thirty years, it is recently getting more and more popular in convenience stores, and therefore draws attention from researchers and practitioners alike. This meal solution has been perceived as a major opportunity for sales growth in convenience stores. To cope with this trend, many convenience stores in Taiwan have redesigned the store layout to provide more space to sell more types of fresh foods. According to the 7-11 annual report, HMR accounted for about 16.5% of total sales in 2010.

Although convenience stores in Taiwan have served HMR for decades, it was not until recently that convenience stores begin to provide a wide range of fresh foods. Nowadays, consumers can freely choose rice, porridge, side dishes, salad, retort food (soup, broth, curry, spaghetti, etc.), and so on in a convenience store at any time just as if they were in a cafeteria. The evolution of HMR reflects a dramatic change in food consumption lifestyle. It is totally different from eat-out (food-away-from-home) or home-prepared meals, and was call as the “meddle meal,” “fresh food” or “foods to go” in different countries. HMR is getting more and more important in many countries (Jang et al., 2011; Kamata, 2010) and is estimated by global industry analysts to reach 91 billion sales by 2015 in the global market. However, there has been relatively little research conducted on this issue from the consumer’s point of view. The present study tries to contribute on this issue.

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(Author: Cheng-Hsi Fang, Yueh-Chuen Huang, Yu-Yeh Chiu

 Published by Macrothink Institute)