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Europe: Demand for convenience drive sales in ready meal solutions

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The ready meals market continued to expand in 2014 and rose by 5%, which was driven by the surge in demand for convenience and the ongoing impact of high inflation, finds a Key Note report.

The market also looked upbeat with internal polarization, diversification and premiumization.

The major story in the industry has been the continued recovery from horsegate, one of the biggest food scandals in British history, which engrossed the market in 2013.

Following the revelation, market value plummeted as consumers were directly confronted with the issue driven by the national media.

However, following decline in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, the industry looks to have nearly completed its recovery as growth returns to the marketplace, in particular in the sectors most damaged, such as frozen ready meals.

The industry looks to have been revitalized with renewed buoyancy and consumer interest pervading across the marketplace.

Much of this growth is attributable to the heightening climate for convenience; driven by accelerating lifestyles it has been key to growth as consumers increasingly prioritize quick and easy meal solutions, or, in other words, ready meals.

The industry has neatly harnessed this phenomenon, exploiting the peaked interest across all levels of the industry to give rise to a diverse and bustling marketplace.

An increasingly health-conscious consumer base continues to shape the industry, as the episodic nature of concern isolates new areas of interest in waves from year to year.

The past year has seen the emergence of two contemporary issues — processed meat and sugar — which have gradually established themselves in the marketplace. Concern regarding processed food has increasingly pervaded food industries over past years; however now the focus has turned more explicitly to processed meats.

Moreover, this concern is set to proliferate in line with a recent publication by the World Health Organization (WHO), which appears to confirm fears, directly implicating processed and red meats as primary causes of cancer and heart disease, two of the most prominent killers in the UK.

The development of this market force may open new areas for growth in ready meals in line with changing eating habits.

Similarly, sugar concern has exploded with increased exposure, driven by mounting political pressure in line with the worsening obesity epidemic.

Retailers have internalized this angst, exploiting the market force through a plethora of ranges stressing the nutritional qualities of their meals and the controlled levels of sugar, fat and salt in products, as the industry assimilates to changing consumer behavior.

Overall, then, Key Note expects the UK ready meals market to continue to rise in value year-on-year as it finalizes its recovery from horsegate.

Much of this will be down to ready meals’ inherent satisfaction of the convenience criteria; however, innovation will be of equal importance, as new product development is imperative to truly unlock this extensive potential.

Ultimately, growth will be determined by ongoing polarization, diversification and premiumization, and the ability of these forces in exploiting developing market conditions.

Overall, the report forecasts market value growth of 15.7% between 2015 and 2019.