Currently microwaves and reheatable meals play little role in Saudi food preparation, but this will start to change along with the country's shift towards smaller families. But the older generation will remain extremely resistant to the use of microwaves, and will continue to rely on traditional food preparation methods.
“A growing number of young Saudis will be keen to move out of their parents' homes, particularly as the housing shortage eases and disposable income levels continue to rise. This trend will also be encouraged by the growing number of women in the workforce,” said the report.
Lacking confidence in cooking skills
“However, many of these young consumers lack confidence in cooking or lack the time or inclination to invest in cooking food from scratch. These consumers are expected to show growing interest in convenient meal solutions and also in convenient microwaves with which to prepare this food,” it added.
Despite these shifts, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to come close to Western levels in the near future. Nikola Košutić, research manager for the Middle East at Euromonitor, said the microwaveable ready meal market in Saudi Arabia was still very small, at around 1% of US per capita spending.
“Eating habits have become somewhat more westernised, especially with more young women entering the workforce and the need for fast cooking solutions. As well, working women are increasingly leaving the children with housemaids or babysitters who also use microwaves to quickly heat meals for youngsters, while the mother is away and as she does other household duties,” said Košutić.
“Microwaves are typically used only to heat snacks (popcorn, pizza, French fries, leftovers etc.) and hot drinks. Large families do not depend on them so much for their daily cooking needs. Smaller families are more apt to use them, but again only periodically, not on a regular basis for main meals,” he added.
Dangerous to health
So far the response to this trend from retailers has been limited, with some shops adding lines of microwaveable meals and snacks, targeted at young independent consumers, rather than families. According to Košutić, the strong societal tradition of preparing meals from scratch is still firmly in place – and for older consumers, is unlikely to change at all.
“The older generation (over 45) does not believe in using microwaves, mainly because they were not raised with them. They mainly believe that microwaves are dangerous to one's health and prefer to cook meals on gas stoves and heat food in electric ovens that are considered more time-consuming, but healthier for their family members,” he said.