Rather than inspiring bursts of creativity in the kitchen, the pandemic and continued lockdown has actually made me lazier when it comes to making food. Maybe that’s from working more hours, or feeling a constant state of stress over the state of the world, or just a general malaise. Whatever the reason, my meals are often whittled down into whatever I can stuff into a tortilla and cook in the panini press.
So when I read about how the pandemic has caused a surge in sales of self-heating packages of food in China, my first reaction was I get it. I mean, you don’t even need to stuff a tortilla or plug in the panini maker. My second reaction was where can I get self-heating packages of food?
Self-heating meals are pretty much what you think they are. Special packaging allows water to mix with powdered chemicals like magnesium and iron to create an exothermic reaction with the resulting steam heating the meal.
As the Mintel blog (h/t to Spoon contributor Stephen Bronner for forwarding) writes, in China the pandemic made self-heating meals hot:
The pandemic has seen sales of self-heating foods in China surge. Between late January and early February 2020, when the virus caused peak infections and China went into lockdown, sales of self-heating foods experienced the second-highest growth of all categories, year over year, according to Taobao, China’s largest online retailer. Sales of self-heating rice alone grew by 257%. They have enabled consumers to enjoy fuss-free dishes/hotpots/meals while restaurants were closed.
Mintel goes on to explain that even though these self-heating foods have a higher price point, they continue to be embraced by Chinese consumers, with Mintel projecting that the market for such products will double.
This type of self-heating technology is also attractive to brands. Mintel reports that hot pot chain HaiDiLao has its own line of self-heating packaged meals that offer an attractive alternative for consumers who can’t afford to eat at the actual restaurants more often.
We’ve covered similar technology here in the states from HeatGen, which uses chemical reactions for self-heating cans being used by La Colombe for individual servings of hot coffee on-the-go. You can also find a variety of self-heating meals when shopping for emergency preparedness or camping foods.
Given that I’ll be basically camping out at home for the foreseeable future, who knows, maybe self-heating meals will be added to my own pandemic menu.