The global market of ready-to-eat [RTE] food products is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.2% to US$195.3 billion by 2026. Food market research attributes this to an increasing number of people working longer hours. On-the-go consumption is an excellent option in these situations. Improved packaging techniques and advanced microwave technology have led to increased consumption of RTE meals in developed countries. This, in turn, has led to increased global demand.
The pandemic saw a surge in demand for RTE meals. However, there is growing awareness of additives and preservatives. Food market insights demonstrate that there is a marked shift towards healthier eating habits.
This means there is plenty of scope for innovation in this sector. The pandemic caused restaurants to innovate by understanding the immediate needs of consumers. The lockdown has inspired people to experiment with food, flavors, and cuisines. This has led to searches for exotic dishes. For instance, restaurants developed and sold pre-prepared base gravies, marinades, dressings, and more. These have significantly reduced the burden of home cooks.
Additionally, this was a healthier option as these mixes contained little to no preservatives and were made using fresh produce. This allowed consumers to cook a variety of dishes in a shorter time.
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Key Market Trends
The increasing demand for frozen pizza and handheld breakfast is causing a surge in the market for RTE meals. These foods are typically marketed as low-cost products with quality and freshness. This has led to these meals gaining immense popularity in several food outlets in North America, leading to brands positioning themselves strategically to drive growth.
Food industry insights show that consumers today want food to be healthy, tasty, and convenient. People want food that is easy to prepare without it being full of additives and chemicals.
This has also caused food innovation in a somewhat surprising area: Soup. Knorr has developed a new range of 100% natural ambient soups packaged in glass bottles.
With growing awareness and demand for foods based on dietary preferences, it is essential to cater to many consumers. This means cyclical product innovation and market research. This has led to a surge of DIY meal kits catering to a wide range of preferences. Sunbasket, for instance, offers DIY meal kits with vegan, paleo, diabetes-friendly, gluten-free, and Mediterranean options.
Whitworths, in late 2020, introduced ready plant-based meals suitable options for vegan consumers. Each pack contains 20g of plant-based protein from various plant sources such as pinto beans, quinoa, lentils, and wheat berries.
Various brands have also launched fitness meals over the years. These typically consist of low-calorie, low-sodium, preservative-free ready meals made using fresh ingredients.
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What’s the Key to Success in the RTE Food Industry?
The key to success in the RTE food industry is evolving with customer expectations and demands. Research shows 55% of shoppers are eating at home more often since the pandemic began.
Millennials used to convenience are willing to spend on RTE meals and are one of the primary drivers of growth in this segment. However, with growing awareness and focus on various dietary trends and restrictions, it is imperative to cater to multiple demographics.
Food industry insights show that the lockdown-led rise in home cooking has generated ample opportunity for growth in the RTE sector. The demand for healthy, fresh food has led the RTE market to expand to include DIY meal kits.
Grocers now have a heightened opportunity to meet customers’ needs through their RTE options in-store and online. This could be done both a la carte or as a whole meal. For instance, roast chicken, salad, and potatoes could be combined or sold separately, leaving the choice to the customer. This could also extend to dessert options.
These include all the ingredients for the dish freshly packed or frozen with the recipe card. This is healthier and allows the meal to be cooked fresh, based on specifications.
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