April 20, 2024

Rise Of The Ready To Eat Food Market

The busy lives that most people lead today have paved the way for the rise of the ready to eat food market. With less time available for cooking meals at home every day, ready to eat options have provided a convenient solution.

Convenience is King
One of the biggest reasons for the popularity of ready meals is convenience. People simply do not have the time or energy after long workdays to cook elaborate meals from scratch every night. According to a survey, over 60% of respondents said convenience was the main factor influencing their food choices. With ready to eat options, one can just heat and eat with almost no preparation time required. This has tremendous appeal for busy households. Manufacturers have capitalized on this need for speed and convenience by offering a wide range of microwaveable and oven ready meals, snacks and desserts.

Rise of the Nuclear Family
The modern nuclear family structure with both parents working has meant that the demand for convenient yet nutritious meal solutions is higher than ever. According to census data, over 70% of households now have a dual income structure compared to just 30% a few decades ago. This has boosted the ready meals customer base substantially. Products tailored for small families as well as bachelor cooks are particularly popular. Many players in the market now offer food in varied pack sizes – right from singles to family packs.

Increased Variety and Personalization
Early ready meals used to come in a limited variety mainly focused on a primary protein like chicken along with starchy carbs and veggies. But now we are spoilt for choice with hundreds of exciting global flavors and customized meals available readily. Manufacturers track consumption patterns closely and keep expanding their range regularly. You can find almost any cuisine inspired ready meal – from Indian tandoori chicken to Thai green curry to Mexican fajitas. Some players have also launched build your own meal kits which allow consumers to select their preferred proteins, sauces and side dishes. This has made ready eating a more personalized experience.

Health and Wellness Trend Boosters
Even as convenience remains a driver, health has risen up the priority list for many customers. Ready meal players have reacted swiftly by enhancing their product formulations and marketing campaigns focused on wellness. Innovations include lower carb, high protein and clean label meals. Many products now prominently display nutritional information upfront along with highlighting aspects like no added preservatives, fewer ingredients etc. Specialized wellness range targeting goals like weight loss, protein loading and so on have also increased market pull. Ethnic inspired meals are finding favor for introducing more whole grains and veggies in packaged formats.

Growth of Organized Retail and Ecommerce
The ready meals category has certainly benefited from the growth of well-stocked hypermarkets and supermarkets. Unlike independent grocers which used to stock limited fast moving brands, modern retail outlets allocate considerable shelf space to a diverse array of ready meals. Shoppers can now browse through aisles dedicated to chilled, frozen and spice mixes sections. This wider exposure at point-of-purchase has boosted offtake tremendously. The ecommerce boom during the pandemic further expanded the reach of ready to eat brands to new customers. Direct to consumer brands have also emerged strongly riding the health and wellness trend online.

Segment-wise Analysis
The Ready Meals market can be broadly segmented into chilled, frozen, spice mixes and other instant meal formats. Let’s examine each segment in brief:

Chilled Meals: Consisting of fresh ready to heat meals with 7-10 day shelf life,this is one of the fastest growing segments driven by health and freshness perceptions attached to chilled products. Almost 30% of ready meal sales are from chilled formats now. Indian and Asian recipes like curries and biryanis have become widely popular in these.

Frozen Meals: Though considered less premium than chilled, frozen still accounts for a majority share due to products like pizzas, pastas and burritos which have longer shelf life and are preferred by young consumers on the go. Players have improved formulations to make frozen seem as premium as chilled.

Meal Kits/Bowls: Targeting single, young working professionals are the high-growth meal kit segment consisting of portion controlled easy-to-assemble recipes. These appear healthier and instill some pride of home cooking. Companies offer new recipes and customization often.

Spice/Sauce Mixes: Providing cooked meal flavors and taste with just addition of protein or veg, spice/sauce mixes have grown impressively in recent years driven by trend of exotic flavors and easy weeknight cooking. Regional cuisine inspirations are driving this space higher.

Other Instant Formats: Cups, soups and hydrating noodles, pasta formats continue to see steady gains driven by the portability and ultra-convenience they offer. College students and office goers sustain this segment.

Rising incomes, evolving retail landscape and fast paced lives have converged to create an ideal environment for the ready meals market to flourish. As tastes expand beyond regular favorites to include a wide variety of regional cuisines and global flavors, the growth potential in this space looks very promising in the long term. With companies continuously innovating offerings, meal solutions are set to shape the way future generations will consume food.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it