British consumers are increasingly snubbing Chinese food in favour of other Asian dishes, latest sales figures reveal.

Sales of Chinese chilled ready meals have fallen 10.8% in volume and 11.1% in value [TNS 52w/e 6 September 2009]. Thai and Japanese cuisines, however, are gaining in popularity, with volume sales of non-Chinese orien­tal ready meals up 40.3% and value sales up 15.4%.

Branded as well as own-label Chinese food has been hit, with sales of Wanchai Ferry dinner kits, launched by General Mills in March, falling far short of early expectations. The company predicted first-year sales of £8m, yet to date the brand has generated only £655,796 [IRI 52w/e 3 October 2009].

The relative accessibility and affordability of Chinese takeaways was partly to blame for falling sales of Chinese food in the supermarkets, said experts.

But the problem had been exacerbated by uninspired ranges and a perceived lack of authenticity compared with other oriental cuisines, admitted Tesco senior buying manager for prepared meals Simon Williams.

Last month, Tesco replaced its core range of own-label Chinese chilled ready meals with a line-up endorsed by celebrity chef Ken Hom. Like-for-like sales had since shot up 80%, said Williams. "We recognised that reinvigorating Chinese cuisine required a new approach," he said.

Meanwhile, General Mills said sales of Wanchai Ferry had picked up in the last three weeks following the launch of a marketing campaign offering consumers a money-back guarantee if they didn't feel the food was better than their local takeaway's.

Sales in the week starting 2 November were 13 times those in the week of 28 September, it claimed.

"We realised that because of the recession consumers needed more guarantees about the product," said MD Jim Moseley. "The new value-led campaign and promotions are the true trial-driving activity."

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Tesco swaps Chinese range to Hom lines (17 October 2009)

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