left: Convenience food in a supermarket

Frozen pizzas and chicken pies, heat and serve meals, cut and diced apple, pre-packed salads, – these are a few examples of convenience foods. With more people facing busy and hectic lifestyles, time-pressed customers are turning to convenience foods to settle their daily meals. Convenience food is defined as food that has been pre-prepared commercially and requires minimal further preparation by the consumer.

Some convenience foods are less healthy as they are likely to contain food preservatives, food additives and have possibly higher fat, sugar and salt content. Eating too much of salt, sugar and fat may lead to health problems such as diabetes, and heart diseases. Some examples of ‘less healthy’ convenience foods include instant noodles, TV dinners, chips, and chocolate bars.

There are many disadvantages when it comes to consuming convenience foods. The consumer would not be able to control the level of ingredients in the product (such as frozen pizza), and in turn, would not be able to control their intake of sugar, fat and salt. Convenience foods are usually higher in sodium content as it is one of the lower priced flavoring ingredients.

Our busy lifestyles are often at odds with the healthy aspirations of consumers who desire to save time, and yet strive to benefit from good nutrition. Even though there are disadvantages of consuming convenience food, convenience food does offer benefits to the present-day customer. Modern production and preservation methods minimize nutritional loss of prepared and precooked products. Pre-cut, prewashed, frozen, canned fruits and vegetables and frozen vegetables save considerable time and convenience to the busy working households. Other examples of healthy convenience foods are oatmeal, salads, fresh fruit and nuts.

Pre-packed salads are an example of a convenience food that is fast gaining popularity in Singapore. This can be seen by the rise of salad shops island-wide. Apart from brick-and-mortar salad bars such as Salad Stop!, Toss & Turn, Grand Salads and Fresh+, there are also online salad stores such as Spinacas and Dressing Room Salad Bar. These online shops welcome self-collection and they offer delivery for a fee.

Salads are also popular in other countries such as the Philippines. Salad Stop! expanded their business into Philippines in December 2014. They have recently opened a second store in the Philippines.

To welcome the popularity of salads, Wendy’s Philippines reintroduced its well-loved all-you-can-eat salad bar concept, which was discontinued in the late nineties. At an affordable price of PHP199 (USD$4.50), customers can make their very own salad masterpiece from a bounty of fresh ingredients such as lettuce greens, cucumber slices, and grated cheese.

In summary, convenience foods allows one to spend less time planning meals and grocery shopping, lesser preparation time, fewer leftovers (with single-portion foods), and easier clean-up. Convenience foods can also provide options for those who do not like to cook, have limited skills or ability, or have poor or no kitchen facilities.