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Ready meals on the rise

While there are many that like it complicated, there are others that like it easy. And if the recent figures on the Australian ready meals market are anything to go by – then it appears that more and more Australians are moving to the latter.

With increasingly busier lifestyles, individuals and families are now reaching for the conveniently packaged ready meals in the supermarket rather than racing through aisles to find ingredients to make that perfect Sunday roast.  

A booming market in meals

According to figures published by market research group, Datamonitor, in February, the Australian ready meals market has increased at a compound annual growth rate of more than seven per cent between 2004 and 2009, with the frozen ready meals category leading the market – accounting for a share of 62 per cent. 

A report published by Euromonitor International late last year revealed that McCain Foods Australia was the leading player in 2009 – accounting for 26 per cent value of the market. The company’s frozen pizza range accounted for 73 per cent value share in 2009.

More than just pizza

According to McCain, it is not just its frozen pizza that is doing so well. The company’s Red Box and Healthy Choice ranges have grown every year in the last five years. This is mainly because of an increase in consumer interest in easy meal options that support a healthy and balanced diet, says McCain.

In 2010, the healthy segment of the frozen ready meals market generated more than $201 million in sales. McCain made the move to meet this demand shortly after in January 2011 with the launch of three new Healthy Choice Bowls: Mild Indian Chicken Curry, Singapore Noodles and Mexican Chicken.

With food manufacturers such as McCain showing positive growth in the ready meals sector, it was not long before supermarket giants such as Woolworths and Coles decided to tap into the market. 

Home brands hone in

In 2008, Woolworths launched a range of ready-made soups in its stores, and earlier this year, the company went on to roll out a range of ready-made risottos. 

“Over the past two years we have seen significant growth in [the ready meals market] as we have worked to grow and improve the range,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Food Magazine.

Today, Woolworths offers a range of “home-style cooked meals,” including curries, soup, pizza, pasta and a private label brand called Emily’s Kitchen. 

“The idea behind our ready to eat range is to offer our time-poor customers, who may not have time to cook at home, a range of home-style cooked meals without the work that use quality ingredients and are competitively priced,” the spokesperson said.

Launched in 2010, Woolworths’s Emily’s Kitchen range includes 40 different meal cuisines, including Italian, Indian and Asian. The range is available as single serve meals, meals for two and vegetable side dishes such as scalloped potatoes.

In June 2009, supermarket rival Coles launched a new range of ready-made curries in two of its stores. Today, the company’s Curry Pots are available in 366 stores across the country. 

“Coles recognised customers were looking for great tasting, good value and convenient Indian meals and we answered this demand with our now famous Curry Pots,” a Coles spokesperson said. “Since then, the range has gone from strength to strength… Interestingly, we now have customers requesting much hotter curries.”

Ready for the future?

 

Euromonitor International projects that consumers will increasingly blur the distinction between home cooking and ready meals, seeking the best of both. 

“[Consumers] will add extra toppings to chilled and frozen pizza and augment dinner mixes and dried ready meals with their own vegetables,” the market research group writes on its website.

“They thus benefit from the convenience offered by ready meals, while also being able to ensure a fresh flavour and improved nutritional benefits. This will also enable consumers to eat ready meals frequently without becoming bored by a lack of variety. The flexibility of these product areas will benefit their volume growth during the forecast period, while frozen ready meals will suffer due to its lack of flexibility, seeing considerably slower volume growth.”

 

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