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Attitudes towards Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods - UK - June 2017

“That over half of ready meal/ready-to-cook eaters/buyers opt to cook from scratch more when money is tight leaves the sector vulnerable given that mounting inflation is expected to put pressure on disposable household incomes. However, premium products should benefit from people choosing these as a money-saving alternative to eating out, although regular innovation is needed to keep shoppers engaged.”
– Alice Baker, Research Analyst

This Report discusses the following key topics:

  • Regular innovation could help premium varieties to succeed even as incomes come under pressure
  • Scope for expansion in healthier ready meals 
  • Ethical claims offer promising means to stand out

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • Inflation expected for the market
              • Government sets new salt reduction targets
                • Consumer lifestyle trends could discourage sales
                  • Companies and brands
                    • Private label continues to dominate launches
                      • Little health-led innovation in 2016
                        • Continued growth for high-protein and gluten-free claims
                          • Retailers look to compete with recipe box subscription schemes
                            • Overall advertising spend rises in 2016
                              • Retailers remain dominant in advertising, with a focus on quality
                                • The consumer
                                  • 89% eat ready meals or RTCs, a third eat chilled at least weekly
                                    • Figure 1: Usage frequency for ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, March 2017
                                  • Families are the key users
                                    • Favourite dish is the primary deciding factor
                                      • New twists and in-store sampling could help to expand users’ limited repertoires
                                        • Figure 2: Ready meal buying factors, March 2017
                                      • Prepared meals at risk if incomes come under pressure, but premium versions could benefit
                                        • Influence of health considerations offers opportunities for healthier variants
                                          • Figure 3: Behaviours relating to ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2017
                                        • Ethical claims could be a differentiator
                                          • Figure 4: Attitudes towards ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2017
                                        • Low quality rating for ready meals suggests negative perceptions still linger
                                          • Figure 5: Perceptions of selected types of prepared meals as high quality, March 2017
                                        • What we think
                                        • Issues and Insights

                                          • Regular innovation could help premium varieties to succeed even as incomes come under pressure
                                            • The facts
                                              • The implications
                                                • Scope for expansion in healthier ready meals
                                                  • The facts
                                                    • The implications
                                                      • Ethical claims offer promising means to stand out
                                                        • The facts
                                                          • The implications
                                                          • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                            • Inflation expected for the market
                                                              • Government sets new salt reduction targets
                                                                • Consumer lifestyle trends could discourage sales
                                                                • Market Drivers

                                                                  • Inflation expected to put pressure on producers’ margins
                                                                    • Prepared meals at risk if incomes come under pressure
                                                                      • Opportunities remain for premium products as alternative to dining out
                                                                        • Government sets targets for industry to further reduce salt
                                                                          • EFSA rules make it difficult to make a low-salt claim
                                                                            • Consumer lifestyle trends could discourage sales
                                                                              • Potential competition from recipe box delivery services
                                                                              • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                • Private label continues to dominate launches
                                                                                  • Little health-led innovation in 2016
                                                                                    • Continued growth for high-protein and gluten-free claims
                                                                                      • Retailers look to compete with recipe box subscription schemes
                                                                                        • Overall advertising spend rises in 2016
                                                                                          • Retailers remain dominant in advertising, with a focus on quality
                                                                                          • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                            • Private label continues to dominate launches
                                                                                              • Asda and Tesco tap into world food trends
                                                                                                • Smaller retailers also step up activity
                                                                                                  • Figure 6: New product launches in the UK prepared meals market, by private label and brands, 2013-17
                                                                                                • Little movement on health claims in 2016
                                                                                                  • Conflicting consumer views on health present a challenge and an opportunity
                                                                                                    • Supermarkets extend and relaunch diet ranges in 2017
                                                                                                      • Figure 7: New product launches in the UK prepared meals market, by top 20 claims (sorted by 2016), 2013-17
                                                                                                    • Continued growth in high protein
                                                                                                      • Canned food brands release high-protein lunch pots and pouches
                                                                                                        • No-allergen claims rise in 2016
                                                                                                          • Five-a-day claims rise as companies seek to latch onto vegetables’ health associations
                                                                                                            • Supermarkets emphasise ingredient provenance as they build up their premium ranges
                                                                                                              • Premium ingredients and restaurant-inspired descriptions used to build associations with fine dining
                                                                                                                • Retailers look to up competition with recipe box schemes
                                                                                                                  • Weight Watchers offers subscription service for keen dieters
                                                                                                                    • Retailers and brands explore Brazilian flavours to capitalise on Olympics
                                                                                                                    • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                      • Wiltshire Farm Foods remains the largest advertiser amid a rise in overall spending
                                                                                                                        • Pushing closeness to homemade foods
                                                                                                                          • Promoting its international flavours
                                                                                                                            • Figure 8: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2013-17
                                                                                                                          • Retailers put the focus on quality
                                                                                                                            • M&S promotes feel-good aspects of its diet meals
                                                                                                                              • Morrisons highlights its in-store preparation
                                                                                                                                • Waitrose emphasises ingredient provenance
                                                                                                                                  • Iceland promotes its authentic flavours
                                                                                                                                    • Slimming World range portrayed as ideal for time-pressed healthy eaters
                                                                                                                                      • Spar puts particular emphasis on ready meals’ time-saving attributes
                                                                                                                                        • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                                        • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                          • 89% eat ready meals or RTCs, a third eat chilled at least weekly
                                                                                                                                            • Families are the key users
                                                                                                                                              • Favourite dish is the primary deciding factor
                                                                                                                                                • New twists and in-store sampling could help to expand users’ limited repertoires
                                                                                                                                                  • Prepared meals at risk if incomes come under pressure, but premium versions could benefit
                                                                                                                                                    • Influence of health considerations offers opportunities for healthier variants
                                                                                                                                                      • Ethical claims could be a differentiator
                                                                                                                                                        • Low quality rating for ready meals suggests negative perceptions still linger
                                                                                                                                                        • Usage of Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                          • A third eat chilled ready meals once a week or more
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 9: Usage frequency for ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                          • Families are key users of ready meals…
                                                                                                                                                            • …as are under-25s
                                                                                                                                                              • Product labelling helps to boost RTC usage frequency
                                                                                                                                                                • Frozen ready meals’ lower usage frequency largely stems from the limitations of the frozen aisle
                                                                                                                                                                  • Meal deals and in-store positioning could help to encourage more frequent usage
                                                                                                                                                                  • Ready Meal Eating Habits

                                                                                                                                                                    • Most users microwave, but over a third oven cook
                                                                                                                                                                      • Promoting on-hob heating could help some dishes to be seen as closer to their homemade versions
                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 10: How ready meals are typically heated, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                      • Most users eat ready meals from a separate plate or bowl
                                                                                                                                                                        • Safe handling features could cater for those eating straight from the container
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 11: How ready meals are typically eaten, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                      • Ready Meal Buying Factors

                                                                                                                                                                        • A favourite dish trumps price for ready meal buyers
                                                                                                                                                                          • New twists and in-store sampling could persuade consumers to expand their limited repertoires
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 12: Ready meal buying factors, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                          • Opportunities for expansion in healthier options
                                                                                                                                                                            • Products with high vegetable content should put this front and centre
                                                                                                                                                                            • Behaviours Relating to Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                              • Prepared meals are vulnerable if incomes come under pressure, but opportunities for premium products
                                                                                                                                                                                • Premium ranges will need to keep innovating
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 13: Behaviours relating to ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                • Over half of eaters/buyers are influenced by health considerations
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Healthier variants on classic dishes have strong appeal
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Opportunities for expansion in healthy children’s meals
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Scope for baby food brands to extend their offering to older children
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Attitudes towards Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Ethical options have wide appeal
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Opportunities for products putting animal welfare credentials front and centre
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Charity pledges appeal most to under-25s
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 14: Attitudes towards ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Premium products should be particularly well placed to benefit from interest in organic
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Resealable packets appeal particularly to parents
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Qualities Associated with Selected Types of Prepared Meals

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Few see any type of prepared meal as offering high quality
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Products using ‘imperfect’ ingredients could be promoted as reducing food waste
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 15: Qualities associated with selected types of prepared meals, March 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Image of ready meals as processed means they could lose out from ‘clean living’ trends
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Focus on ingredients could help to create a more ‘natural’ image
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • ‘Deconstructed’ versions could help prepared meals to be seen as closer to home cooking
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Consumer indifference suggests need for frozen foods to be marketed on taste grounds
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 16: New product launches in the UK prepared meals market 2013-17, by company (sorted by 2016)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                                                                              To learn more about the companies covered in this report please contact us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Attitudes towards Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods - UK - June 2017

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