Healthy convenience demand provides scope for innovation

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Ready meals, Nutrition, Health, Health care

A continuing consumer preference for convenience is driving demand
for healthy ready meals and snacks on the go, suggesting areas for
further development.

According to Datamonitor's consumer products database, European petrol station forecourts experience strong retail growth for convenience food products, with cereal bars and ready meals showing the greatest increase in demand. The analysts said that across Europe, sales of sports and energy bars and breakfast replacement bars are predicted to grow at an annual rate of 12 per cent as alternatives to unhealthy snacks. Fish-based ready meals will experience the greatest increase in this sector, with an annual growth rate of 11 per cent between 2006 and 2001, said Datamonitor. This is probably due to research continuing to discover the health benefits of fish, showing that the desire for healthy products increasingly affects the convenience market. There is increasing scope for launching innovative on-the-go products as people lead increasingly busy lives. Europe's average commuting times are expected to increase from 67 minutes in 2006 to 72 minutes in 2011 according to Reportlinker.com, which has released a catalogue bringing together Datamonitor's research. Cereal bars ​Datamonitor's research showed that, in 24 of the 29 European markets covered, service station sales of cereal bars have been growing at a quicker rate than in supermarkets, showing that not only are people eating on the go, but also buying on the go. A particular area of interest of snack manufacturers is that for healthy snacks, as 35 per cent of consumers in Europe and North American are choosing at least one healthy snack every day, according to previous research from the group. Consumption of healthy snacks is expected to rise by 9 per cent by 2011 as government efforts to combat global obesity help more people becoming aware of health and nutrition. Publicised research into the side effects of artificial colours and flavourings and the health risks resulting from consumption of trans fats has also seen companies reformulate to meet consumer demands for healthier snacks. Many companies focusing on healthy snacks have reported strong performances over the past few years. In September 2007, UK-based manufacturer Glisten said that net fruit and cereal snack sales for the year ending 30 June 2007 were up to €40m from €33.4m last year, while sales within the confectionery division were down to €42.8m from €44.9m. Similarly, US-based General Mills said that increased market share of some of its healthier snacks, such as Nature Valley grain snacks and Fiber One bars, helped boost overall sales in the US during the first financial quarter ended 26 August 2007. Kellogg's is continually responding to increasing numbers of people who skip meals, by providing cereal bar alternatives to their cereal brands. Ready meals ​Datamonitor found that ready meals is another area experiencing strong growth, and predicted that fish-based meals will become particularly popular - as reports continue to document the health benefits of nutrients such as omega-3. Commenting on the research, Reportlinker.com said: "As consumers increasingly engage in 'top-up' shopping, ready meals will remain a strong growth area for forecourt retailers." ​ Again, as the health and wellness trend spirals, there are more and more opportunities for manufacturers to develop fresh-tasting, indulgent ready-made meals that are low in fat, salt and sugar. And manufacturers have been responding to this ever-growing demand. For example, last year, UK retailer ASDA announced that it is removing all artificial additives from its own label food products, in the light of consumer resistance to such ingredients.

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