The market for frozen convenience foods faces a challenge as consumers eat on the go more frequently, writes Jonathan Thomas.
With more people across regions such as Europe and the US leading busier and hence ever more time-pressured lifestyles, the market for convenience foods is forecast to enjoy a period of prolonged growth. One major consequence of this trend is the further expansion of the ‘food to go’ market, i.e. foods which are designed to be eaten whilst on the move. The UK has one of Europe’s largest markets, with sales forecast to reach GBP20.7bn by the end of 2018, according to data from MCA.
The European market for frozen convenience foods is wide and far-ranging. Some of its largest sectors have traditionally included ready meals, pizza, coated foods, potato products and various hot-eating snacks. As far as consumers are concerned, convenience foods are usually taken to mean products which can be heated or cooked easily and quickly, either by conventional or microwave ovens.
Ready meals are widely sold throughout Europe, although sales remain skewed towards markets such as the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Further south, the tradition of cooking meals from scratch is stronger, with the result that household penetration of ready meals tends to be lower. Estimates of the size of the European ready meals market vary, although most sources agree on a figure in the region of $45bn if a broad definition is applied.
The UK has one of Western Europe’s largest and most well-developed markets for ready meals, with almost 1.6 billion served every year. In recent years, however, the frozen sector has struggled, having lost share against its chilled counterpart. As can be seen from Table 2 below, UK sales of chilled meals and accompaniments were worth over GBP1.61bn in 2017, although this had changed little from the previous year. During this time, sales growth for chilled vegetarian products and chilled quiches and flans was more impressive.
You can read the entire article in the Nov-Dec issue of Frozen Food Europe print magazine.