Good-for-you ready meals drive category, Mintel

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food Meal Uk Germany

The ready meals market is anything but on its way out, as
manufacturers tap into healthy trends and revitalise products once
seen as favoured by 'couch potatoes' and people with no time to pay
attention to proper healthy eating.

According to a new report from Mintel called "Eating habits: Improving the appeal of convenience options in Europe",​ the ready meals market in Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain is worth €8.4bn, representing growth of five per cent on last year. The analyst is predicting a further 18 per cent sales hike by 2011 to reach €9.9bn, and underlying this is the need to appeal to shoppers by appealing to aspects of consumers' lifestyles - that is, combining convenience with perceived health benefits like organic or natural ingredients and lower salt, fat and sugar content. "European consumers have become more concerned about the quality of their food and saving time or effort is no longer a strong enough selling point,"​ said European consumer analyst Michelle Strutton. This indicates that certain manufacturers who have already started flaunting healthier aspects of their products could be right on the money. For instance, UK retailer ASDA recently announced that it is removing all artificial additives from its own label food products, in the light of consumer resistance to such ingredients. It is also aiming to meet the Food Standards Agency's 2010 salt reduction targets well ahead of the deadline. Indeed, the UK is "king of convenience",​ said Strutton, where sales hit nearly €3bn last year, compared to €2bn in France and €1.8bn in Germany. "Suppliers [in the UK], especially leading retailers such as M&S, are quick to react to new consumer trends, so offering a wide variety of exciting meals to appeal to everyone's taste,"​ she said. As for Germany, growth is expected to be the fastest in Europe - 44 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Traditionally the German market has been driven by discount options, but economic recovery means Germans are likely to start considering more premium products. In France, on the other hand, eating is still an activity for the family, and the population is resistant to prepared convenience. Here, ready meal sales are predicted to grow by just nine per cent by 2011.

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