Chilled food sector must tap consumer patterns

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags United kingdom European union

The western European market for chilled prepared foods, worth over
€14.62bn in 2005, must take into account changing consumer patterns
if it is to avoid stagnation.

This is one of the take-home messages of The European Chilled Prepared Foods Market,​ an update of the previous 2003 report from Leatherhead Food International (LFI).

Although the overall market has experienced a period of steady growth in recent years, driven by factors such as the decline of formal mealtimes and the resulting move to convenience foods, there are signs that this may be starting to change.

Sales of certain products, such as ready meals, have dipped in markets such as the UK.

"More consumers now appear to be taking more interest in what goes into their foods, whilst other convenience products have come under media scrutiny due to their alleged links with poor diets,"​ said the report.

"Health concerns continue to impact upon the market, having increased the appeal of products such as prepared salads."

In the UK for example, 61.6 per cent of consumers are now overweight or obese, compared with 54.2 per cent Europe-wide according to figures from research group HealthFocus. This is driving the diet and health food industry, which is expected to reach £5.3bn by 2009, representing an expenditure of almost 90 per head each year.

As healthy eating habits catch on and commodity costs continue to rise, chilled prepared foods could suffer.

LFI's market value figure of €14.62bn covers all of the major western European markets, namely the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Netherlands. Market value is expected to increase by almost 4 per cent to €15.15bn during 2006, afterwards rising to more than €18bn by 2010.

And with sales worth over €7.95bn, the UK remains Europe's largest market for chilled prepared foods. The LFI report says that there are many reasons for this, such as the high household penetration levels of both refrigerators and microwave ovens, as well as the decline of formal mealtimes and the success of convenience foods in general.

Competition from frozen and ambient foods remains strong across much of Europe, with frozen foods proving to be particularly popular in Germany. Smaller markets for chilled prepared foods exist in Spain and Ireland, but are considered to have good growth potential.

By sector, the chilled prepared bakery products category represents the largest. This category accounts for around a quarter of market value, ahead of ready meals and prepared salads. However, sales of both prepared sandwiches and savoury pastry products remain heavily skewed towards the UK and France, whilst sectors such as chilled soups remain under-developed in parts of the region.

The European Chilled Prepared Foods Market is an update of the previous 2003 report from LFI and includes information such as market size, competitor analysis and recent new product innovation.

Historic market size data for each sector is presented for the 2001-2005 period, whilst forecasts for 2006 and 2010 also feature. The report also contains a SWOT analysis for the chilled prepared foods market, and examines its recent performance against the frozen foods category.

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