Ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared meals are driving top line sales and bottom line profits around the globe. Here in the United Sates where restaurants once owned the playing field for ready-2-eat, grocery stores, chain drug stores and C-stores have all entered and are rapidly growing market share.
British based Mintel analyst Anne Bourgeois said: "In the UK the ready-made meal has undergone a change of image, from being deemed as unhealthy, lazy food to being repositioned as a premium, indulgent option.
"Retailers have further enhanced the image of chilled meals by using premium packaging and premium positioning." She added: "The traditionally insular British are becoming ever more cosmopolitan - a trend initiated by the spread of cheaper air travel and the democratization of foreign holidays. This is reflected in the wide range of ethnic restaurants mushrooming in high streets across the land."
The report from market analysts Mintel looked at sales in five European countries –“ France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK.
Mintel found consumers in the UK buy more ready-made meals than any other major European country. Around £1.9 billion was spent on the meals in the UK last year - double that of the French and six times more than in Spain.
And while demand for ready-made meals across Europe rose by 29% between 1998 and 2002, in the UK it soared by 44%. It found 30% of adults in the UK eat a ready-made meal more than once a week compared with just 16% in France.
A sign that the UK has more of a convenience culture is shown by the fact 80% of the UK population owns a microwave oven while in Italy it is 27%, the report says. Mintel found sales of ready-made meals in the five countries was £4.7 billion last year.
The UK accounted for 42% of all sales last year, way ahead of France with 21%, Germany (20%), Italy (9%), and Spain (7%). Ethnic meals are particularly popular, the report found, with Indian, Chinese and other Asian recipes making up 40% of the chilled ready-made market across Europe.”
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