Mintel research finds that 71% of consumers in Canada keep frozen ready-to-eat meals on hand in case they need them despite ingredient concerns, finds a Mintel research.
It finds 24% of respondents agree that they prefer to eat ready-to-eat meals when there are other options available and 43% are comfortable serving ready-to-eat meals to their family.
Despite 86% Canadian adults having consumed ready-to-eat meals in the past six months, 67% believe such meals contain too much sodium and 63% agree that they are overly processed.
Indeed, it seems consumers are demonstrating a demand for cleaner ingredients and more ‘authentic’ meal options.
The top three traits of ready-to-eat meals consumers are interested in trying are meals with fewer preservatives and artificial ingredients (44 %), feature ethnic-inspired flavors (36%) and have fewer calories (35%).
“Canadians perceive ready-to-eat meals as an emergency food, primarily keeping them on-hand for convenience and instances when they do not have time to make dinner from scratch,” said Joel Gregoire, senior food & drink analyst.
“With a small number of Canadians preferring ready-to-eat meals when other options are available, consumer perceptions challenge the overall industry.”
“Perceptions, coupled with consumer interest in cleaner ingredients and low-calorie options, highlight some of the reasons why the category has struggled in recent years.”
“These concerns need to be addressed by brands to stimulate growth in a stagnant category.”
About 35% are interested in trying lower calorie ready meal options, but when it comes to purchasing ready-to-eat meals, 69% view the size of the meal as important, including 15% who agree that it is their number-one factor.
Some 67% of respondents agree that the type of meat or protein in the meal is of importance, with 15% saying it is the most important factor when purchasing.
Further, 53 % of respondents agree that the time it takes to prepare ready-to-eat meals is also important.
Size and protein factor in purchase intent for Canadians who may be looking to consume larger, more filling meals at dinner.
About 48% of respondents choose ready-to-eat meals when eating alone, with 36% eating them for family dinners and 34% for lunch at home.
While showing popularity in the lunch and dinner dayparts, only 11% of Canadians consume ready-to-eat meals for breakfast.
Younger adult demand
Canadian consumers age 18-24 tend to turn to ready-to-eat meals for a snack at much higher rates, with 20% eating them as a snack compared to 13% overall.
They are also much more likely to turn to these meals for late night snacks (24% vs 13% overall) and are twice as likely to use them as a holdover until their next meal (18% vs 9%).
Younger adults prefer the convenience of frozen ready-to-eat meals in the morning when they are limited on time, as 18% choose to eat them for breakfast, as opposed to just 11% of overall respondents.
While younger adults show the greatest preference for snacking on frozen ready-to-eat meals, 25-34 year olds represent the highest usage in the category with 90% consuming ready-to-eat meals in the past six months.
Overall, 88% of under-45s eat ready-to-eat meals with numbers waning at middle-age, dropping down to 75% for those age 65 and older.
“An aging population challenges growth of ready and prepared meals, especially given the health concerns many consumers have expressed, including high sodium levels,” says Gregoire.
“Canadians age 65 and older are more likely to be more diet-focused as health concerns, such as sodium intake, become more prominent.”
“In general, Canadians are displaying an overall desire to reduce the intake of processed foods, which consumers perceive as being less healthy and inferior in quality.”
“These perceptions further help explain the category’s market performance, as retail value sales of ready and prepared meals is forecasted to remain relatively flat through 2019 as the population ages.”
Fathers feast on frozen meals
When compared to mothers and non-parents, fathers are much more likely to eat frozen meals.
About 93% of Canadian dads eat frozen meals.
About 75% of fathers consume single-serve ready-to-eat meals, as opposed to mothers (59%), non-mothers (53%) and non-fathers (55%).
Canadian dads are also more likely to turn to frozen meals more frequently when looking for meal solutions, with 31% being heavy users of single-serve meals (vs 21% of mothers).
Furthermore, 24% of fathers identify as heavy users of multi-serve meals.
Overall, 60% of dads turn to frozen meals multiple times per month compared to 39% of moms, and 54% indicated that they are more comfortable serving ready-to-eat meals to their families.
“With category usage dipping among older consumers, ready and prepared meals have a bright spot in fathers, who are core consumers of single- and multi-serve meals,” says Gregorie.
“Parents in general display higher consumption rates when compared to consumers without families, but with nine in 10 fathers eating frozen meals, the category could benefit if it keeps dads interested in products as they near and pass the middle-age life stage.”