Ready-meals going local, says Datamonitor

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Starch food innovation, Sustainability

Consumer interest in eating locally-sourced produce is encouraging
food manufacturers to develop ready-meals made with ingredients
sourced from the same region in which the product is sold, says
analyst Datamonitor.

The swift increase in farmers' markets bears testament to the rise of interest in eating local produce, as opposed to that flown in from different corners of the globe and sold on supermarket shelves year-round. But Datamonitor's observation indicates that green-linking will become more deeply embedded in the food chain, especially at a time when ingredients suppliers are seeking to cater to the environmental concerns that filter down from the consumer to the retailer to the food manufacturer - their direct client. Moreover the trend seems to be stepping out of the realm of produce for consumers to prepare their own meals at home from scratch, and combining with the trend towards convenience, which is particularly prevalent amongst busy working people. Datamonitor's review, though its ProductScan division, takes into account products launched in different markets. The main example it cites hails from the United States, where Seattle-based Eat Local has launched a range of locally-sourced frozen prepared meals. The range is made up of 40 products aimed at single people and families. As well as using ingredients sourced from local organic farms, the company also aims for zero packaging waste and offers refunds when some of the packaging is returned to the store. "With consumers expressing concern about global warming and the cost of transporting food around the world, similar launches are likely to follow,"​ said the Datamonitor. Other companies have already addressed natural and organic trends in ready meals. For instance ASDA recently became the first UK supermarket to introduce a range of organic ready meals aimed specifically at children. In the US, Kidfresh offers 'all-natural' prepared lunchboxes, which straddle both the health and the convenience trends since they are aimed at parents who do not want their children's diets to suffer as a result of their own busy lifestyles. In an interview with Food Navigator.com Chris Langley, of National Starch Food Innovation said that ingredients companies are being encouraged to address sustainability issues by their customers, who in turn are being encouraged by retailers. As part of the overarching sustainability programme of its parent company ICI, National Starch Food Innovation recently launched a new stewardship programme from Kernel to Kitchen, which aims to communicate sustainable practices at every stage of the production process - both internally and externally to its customers and further down the food supply chain. Langley said that while five or ten years ago people were primarily concerned about food safety, their views are now further reaching. "[Sustainability] is becoming as important as food safety has been in the past,"​ he said. Moreover, he added that product stewarding is closely tied in with health. Organic and traceable produce is closely associated with imparting health benefits. But Datamonitor has also highlighted some other health food trends that are marching into the mainstream, such as prebiotics and superfruits. In Canada the Canada bread Company has launched a prebiotic whole grain bread under its Dempster's brand. US' Well's Dairy has launched a range of superfruits-flavoured yoghurts (such as white cranberry-strawberry and pomegranate-blueberry), which Datamonitor says "highlights the way the superfruits concept is gradually moving into the mainstream".​ For instance, QP Corp in Japan has launched a functional pasta sauce aimed at active people in their 50s and 60s, which contains phytosterols to target cholesterol reduction.

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