The future of oriental food in the UK

Oriental Cuisine UK Foodservice Market Lee Kum Kee
11/02/2019 - 06:00
Oriental cuisine is ideally placed to meet growing consumer concern for health and wellbeing when choosing what to eat out of home.

That’s the view of Maria Chong, managing director of Chinese sauce company Lee Kum Kee Europe, which has produced a report on the future of oriental food in the UK.

She says: “One of the key opportunities is the rise in ‘kind eating’, particularly for Oriental food.

“Operators should be showing consumers just how healthy and nutritious Chinese food can be.”

Chong adds: ‘Everyone is familiar with Oriental cuisine, but it’s changed dramatically over the years, as has the UK food scene.

“We’ve created this report to understand the current status of Oriental food in the UK foodservice market and offer an effective tool for operators.

“It’s about unlocking the profit-making opportunity that a good Oriental food offer can present and driving business success, not just within traditional Oriental restaurants but across all foodservice sectors.

“The report demonstrates the opportunities and challenges for foodservice operatives.”

Although the report identifies a key trend driving consumer dining habits as health and wellbeing, Chong says the trend is not limited to special diets such as vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian.

“The report comments on the general shift in diners looking for fresh and unprocessed dishes; 38% of British consumers are looking for these when dining out.”

Key advice from the 2019 Oriental Foodservice Report includes:

Menu development

* Embrace trends from around the world on your menu: Oriental cuisine is extremely popular with 4 in 5 consumers eating it out of home and there are still plenty of ‘new’ and exciting ingredients consumers are willing to try; 46% of consumers have not heard of glass noodles and 26% have not tried Char Siu sauce.

* Special diets are important: 70% of British consumers have either dietary or wellbeing led considerations when eating out, there’s real opportunity for operators to expand their menu options and maximise sales.

* The big health drive: Oriental food fits well with the drive for healthy fresh food as meals are always based around a balance of fresh veg, protein and carbs.

* Education is effective: consumers might be keen to explore new flavours and ingredients but they want a little explanation or inspiration. Working closely with ingredient suppliers who have a wealth of knowledge will help operators

The best ingredients

* Applicable authenticity: with 2 in 5 consumers claiming authenticity is extremely important when eating out, operators must understand how they are being perceived and encompass relevant authenticity within their offer

* Corporate environmental responsibility: sustainability and transparency are vital, for both businesses and consumers; 54% of consumers claim sustainability of ingredients is important to them whilst 50% of business leaders predict food waste and sustainability will be a key trend moving forwards

* Provenance: understand the source, historical background of a cuisine and flavours by working more closely with suppliers and trusted brands

Safety allergens: stable ingredients and consistence in quality that you can rely on is key, so only work with suppliers that you can trust


* Harness social media effectively: social media continues to help foodservice businesses to market cost-effectively. Notably, 50% of 18-24, 51% of 25-34 year olds and 48% of 35-44 year olds are using Facebook to find inspiration for eating out.

* Menu design: use suitable descriptions to excite and appeal, but be sensitive enough not to scare or confuse the consumers. Images are a vital way to encourage consumers to try new dishes. Encompass both new and exciting dishes as well as familiarity to encourage more visits.

* Know your audience: there is a clear regional divide between consumers in London and the rest of the country. London consumers are twice as likely to say sushi, Korean barbecue and pho are their favourite dishes when eating out, but be mindful that some cuisines and dishes popular in London may not be as successful elsewhere and vice versa.

Lee Kum Kee worked in partnership with out of home data and insight company CGA to combine broad industry data as well as specific market and consumer information from their own category knowledge to produce The Future of Oriental Food: UK Foodservice 2019 report.

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