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HMR, Hot Trend In The Food World
By Lee Seo-jin Cub Reporter, Sophomore of Material Science and Engineering
Have you ever heard of Home Meal Replacements? Recently, they have become a major trend in the food industry. They are so hot that new terms have been made to describe them and they are also called a “future food.” What is the reason for HMRs’ popularity?
HMRs are packaged products of pre-processed ingredients that can be eaten after simple cooking. In general, when we eat food, we follow the traditional steps of purchasing ingredients, prepping them, cooking, eating, and cleaning up. HMR was created with the aim of reducing these processes and efforts, and giving consumers greater freshness compared to conventional frozen foods.
There are four types of HMRs: Ready-to-eat, Ready-to-heat, Ready-to-cook, and Ready-to-prepare.
The first HMR in Korea was curry. The 3-minute Curry, launched in 1981, is a first-generation HMR that focuses on convenience. The second generation of HMR focused on freshness. Refrigerated and frozen foods became popular. Since 2013, a 3rd generation of HMR has been made to include cup-bab, soup/tang/jjigae, and Korean side dishes. From 2015 to the present, premium daily meals have emerged, and a 4th generation of HMR has been created in collaboration with famous restaurants and chefs. HMR has once again grown into a fifth generation. The keyword in the 5th generation of HMR is meal kits. Meal kits, with ready-to-prepare food, are becoming more popular as the coronavirus era continues. Because pre-portioned meal kits can be picked up at markets or delivered to your home, they are more convenient. And, they’re more fun to prepare for yourself.
There are several reasons for the rapid growth of the HMR market. First, according to a recent survey by the National Statistical Office, the number of single-person households has increased significantly. Single people tend to buy processed foods, rather than making food at home. Due to this demographic shift, the development, production, and sales of HMR have also increased to meet this need.
Secondly, online delivery has developed. Online malls are suitable for selling processed HMRs. If food companies sell products directly through their own online shop, they can reduce commissions paid to retailers and easily identify customers’ purchasing trends. This information can be used for marketing and developing new products. From a consumer's point of view, they get the advantage of receiving products comfortably delivered to their door at a cheaper price than offline.
Third, there is the popularization of convenience stores. Convenience stores are easy to visit at any time, and we can easily buy a small amount of goods. Therefore, convenience stores close to houses are the best place for single-person HMR sales. Also, convenience stores are highly accessible, so it is easy for companies to advertise their products to consumers.
What are the disadvantages of HMRs? First, there is the environmental concern about the use of disposable plastics that many HMRs are packaged in. Additionally, we have to check the expiration dates carefully. In particular, fresh RTCs have a short shelf life, so be careful. In addition, HMRs are often heated in a microwave, so we have to check the precautions before using a microwave.
With the investment of many companies, the science and technology used in HMR is getting better and better. These days, with the new COVID-19 restrictions, getting food delivered is a safer way to have healthy meals. As new HMRs are developed, people have the chance to prepare a variety of new recipes for their families, or for themselves if they live alone.