Rise Of The Ready Meal In Indonesia

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Heat and eat—that’s what consumers with fast-paced urban lifestyles want when it comes to meal preparations. By Farah Nazurah

Ready-to-eat meals are not a new concept and have been around for decades. They were first introduced by food manufacturer Swansons for the North American market in 1953. The challenge for food manufacturers now is to adapt these fast meals to different markets and local palates.

APFI speaks to Jenny Kartika Rusli, business development director, Foodex Inti Ingredients, who provides insights into what Indonesian consumers look for in their ready meals.


Please give a brief description of the company.

Foodex Inti Ingredients is a food seasoning and food ingredient manufacturer based in Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia. We were established in 1995 as a simple food seasoning company that blends ingredients. Now, our product portfolio includes seasonings, natural meat extracts, flavour ingredients and retort (food pouches) ready-to-eat meal solutions for all food segments.

We also provide flavour solutions for different food categories such as noodle, snacks, processed meat, as well as for the food service sector. Our products are sold in the local Indonesian market, and are also exported to markets in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.


Describe the key trends in the Indonesian food and beverage market.

Indonesia has a large population of millennials who are keen on travelling and are adventurous with food. Hence, we are seeing a tremendous surge in people eating out as a result of changing lifestyles and wanting a convenient option. Food delivery services have also increased significantly, and one example is Gojek/Go Food.

These fast-moving trends bring a lot of opportunities for new developments in the food service and restaurant sector. Restaurants are now being challenged to bring in more unique flavours, and to keep abreast of international food trends.

Flavours such as cheese, green tea, and salted egg yolk are some examples of products that have been successfully adapted to the Indonesian market.

Indonesians have also been receptive to twists on local favourites, such as “modernised” sambal, which is a hot sauce or paste typically made from a mixture of a variety of chili peppers with secondary ingredients such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, or garlic. Examples of these modern twists include spicy cheese and “Sambal Matah”—a raw, spicy shallot and chilli salsa.

Additionally, the middle class in the country is growing and this is expected to benefit the food service sector. We foresee an increase in protein consumption, aligned with strong growth in processed meat industry and dairy industry. Consumers are also more concerned with the ingredients that go into their food and drinks; they are demanding a cleaner label, natural extracts, less monosodium glutamate (MSG) and preservatives, and natural colours.


What do consumers value most when choosing ingredients for their meals?

Taste is still the most important factor in choosing meal ingredients, followed by price and health benefits. Generally, Indonesians still place taste as a higher priority as compared to health benefits, but we believe this will shift in the next five years.


What are the differences between consumer trends in Indonesia as compared to the rest of Southeast Asia?

Indonesians are more price sensitive and they have a wider taste preference. The fusion and adoption of Western flavours and ingredients combined with local ones seem to be dominating the market. For example, cheeses inspired by Western cuisine have been adapted to the local palate—the cheeses are sweet with a creamy note. This localised cheese taste is something that is specifically preferred by consumers here.


Please share your insights on the ready-to-eat meals segment in Indonesia.

Unlike countries such as Japan and Thailand where the ready-to-eat meals sector is already saturated, it is still in its infancy in Indonesia. Both the younger population and working parents are demanding convenience in food preparation. They want solutions such as meals which only require heating before the meals can be consumed. This includes sides such as rice or noodles, a full meal solution or even desserts.


What should manufacturers be aware of if they want to tap into Indonesia’s ready-to-meals segment?

Instant noodle manufacturers have started to improve their product offerings to include ready-to-eat components (real meat in sauce). This enables consumers to have meals with a better nutrition content that are also tastier.

Food manufacturers have also launched value-added ready-to-eat meals containing both proteins and carbohydrates in a single meal, for example: Rendang, chicken curry, and opor chicken (chicken in coconut gravy).

At Foodex, we manufacture ready-to-eat solutions for food service and quick service restaurants, as well as for contract manufacturing (OEM). For the food service sector, the availability of these convenient meals greatly offers convenience and a standardised solution. This also eliminates elaborate food preparation and food wastage.

For food ingredients manufacturers, it is an opportunity for them to provide ingredients that retain freshness in taste and aroma, and which are also heat stable; as this is the main challenge in the development of ready-to-eat meals.


Indonesia is the largest market (population-wise) in Southeast Asia. What advice do you have for manufacturers wanting to enter or even expand their businesses in the country?

Knowledge on food regulatory laws and the Halal requirement is critical. With the majority of the Indonesian population being Muslim, obtaining the Halal approval for food and drink products by Majelis Ulama Indonesia—a clerical body—is very important.

Additionally, the food regulations in Indonesia for food additives, colours and ingredients are constantly changing and manufacturers need to keep themselves updated on the latest amendments to be able to sell their products in the local market.