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Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods - UK - July 2018

“The influx of premium launches has underpinned the strong growth in the market, while NPD in healthy ready meals has also tapped into the overarching health trend. The return of salt to media headlines, however, will ramp up pressure on companies to try to reduce the salt content of products. Proving the suitability of ready meals for children could also offer boosts for the category.”

- Alyson Parkes, Research Analyst

This report will look at the following areas:

  • Lower salt levels can add a healthier proposition to the market
  • Ready meals could give plant-based meat alternative foods a boost
  • Health claims are key to proving suitability of ready meals for children

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

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

          • The market
            • Strong value growth continues for the prepared meals market
              • Value and volume growth forecast for the market
                • Figure 1: Total UK retail value sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2013-23
              • Chilled ready meals extend lead
                • Declining value and volume sales for ready-to-cook foods
                  • Government unveils further plans to cut calorie intake; salt reduction targets largely unmet
                    • Opportunity to tap into ‘flexitarian’ and plant-based diet trends
                      • Focus on plastic packaging waste is a challenge for the market
                        • Companies and brands
                          • Strong own-label sales growth adds pressure to frozen ready meal brands
                            • Own-label retains chilled ready meals dominance
                              • Charlie Bigham’s bucks the downward trend in ready-to-cook foods
                                • Own-label extends share of new product launches
                                  • Premium launches reach a four-year high
                                    • Iceland adds two new ready meal ranges as part of plastic-free initiative
                                      • High/added-protein claims on the rise
                                        • Plant-based meals gain traction in NPD
                                          • Adspend declines in category
                                            • Wiltshire Farm Foods’ ads feature its customers; Quorn partners with celebrities to promote meat reduction
                                              • The consumer
                                                • The majority of people eat ready meals or ready-to-cook foods
                                                  • Figure 2: Usage of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, March 2018
                                                • Chilled ready meals and RTC foods are eaten the most frequently
                                                  • Figure 3: Usage frequency of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, March 2018
                                                • Ready meals/RTC foods are most commonly eaten at weekday dinners
                                                  • Figure 4: When ready meals/ready-to-cook foods are eaten, March 2018
                                                • A low salt content garners high interest
                                                  • Figure 5: Interest in innovation in ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                • Scope to boost use of meat alternatives in ready meals
                                                  • Strong interest in buying freshly made ready meals
                                                    • Figure 6: Behaviours related to purchasing of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                  • 36% have bought prepared foods for a special occasion
                                                    • Meat/fish and authentic recipe are top factors in a premium ready meal
                                                      • Figure 7: Important factors in premium ready meals, March 2018
                                                    • Ready meals can cater to fragmented meal occasions
                                                      • Figure 8: Attitudes towards ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                    • Two in five parents see ready meals as suitable for children
                                                      • What we think
                                                      • Issues and Insights

                                                        • Lower salt levels can add a healthier proposition to the market
                                                          • The facts
                                                            • The implications
                                                              • Ready meals could give plant-based meat alternative foods a boost
                                                                • The facts
                                                                  • The implications
                                                                    • Health claims are key to proving suitability of ready meals for children
                                                                      • The facts
                                                                        • The implications
                                                                        • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                                          • Strong value growth continues for the prepared meals market
                                                                            • Value and volume growth forecast for the market
                                                                              • Chilled ready meals extend lead
                                                                                • Declining value and volume sales for ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                  • Government unveils further plans to cut calorie intake; salt reduction targets largely unmet
                                                                                    • Opportunity to tap into ‘flexitarian’ and plant-based diet trends
                                                                                      • Focus on plastic packaging waste is a challenge for the market
                                                                                      • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                        • Strong value growth continues for the prepared meals market
                                                                                          • Figure 9: Total UK retail value and volume sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2013-23
                                                                                        • Value growth forecast for the market with steady volume growth expected to continue
                                                                                          • Inflation and premiumisation will help fuel value growth
                                                                                            • Openness to healthier formulations
                                                                                              • Growth of 25-34s and children should support volume sales
                                                                                                • Figure 10: Total UK retail value sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2013-23
                                                                                                • Figure 11: Total UK retail volume sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2013-23
                                                                                              • Forecast methodology
                                                                                              • Market Segmentation

                                                                                                • Chilled ready meals extend lead
                                                                                                  • Figure 12: UK retail value sales and shares of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by segment, 2014-18
                                                                                                  • Figure 13: UK retail volume sales and shares of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by segment, 2014-18
                                                                                                • Frozen ready meals volume sales plateau in 2017, dip expected in 2018
                                                                                                  • Ready-to-cook foods expected to break their previous decline
                                                                                                  • Market Drivers

                                                                                                    • Government unveils further plans to cut calorie intake
                                                                                                      • Salt reduction targets largely unmet
                                                                                                        • Figure 14: Share of new product launches in the UK prepared meals market carrying an L/N/R sodium (salt) claim, 2014-18
                                                                                                      • Action on Salt calls for salt warnings on Chinese ready meals to be mandatory
                                                                                                        • Valentine’s Day ready meals singled out for salt
                                                                                                          • Opportunity to tap into flexitarian and plant-based diet trends
                                                                                                            • Popularity of world and emerging cuisines gives category a boost
                                                                                                              • Ready meals need to cater to tastes of younger people
                                                                                                                • Squeezed incomes have supported dine-in occasions
                                                                                                                  • Figure 15: Annual percentage change in CPI and AWE (regular pay), monthly basis, January 2012-March 2018
                                                                                                                • Squeezed incomes have contributed to the popularity of scratch cooking
                                                                                                                  • Focus on plastic packaging waste is a challenge for the market
                                                                                                                    • Government pushes to tackle packaging waste
                                                                                                                      • Consumer impetus to address sustainability
                                                                                                                        • The ageing population poses a challenge to the market
                                                                                                                          • Figure 16: Trends in the age structure of the UK population, 2013-18 and 2018-23
                                                                                                                        • Competition from recipe box services adds pressure
                                                                                                                        • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                          • Strong own-label sales growth adds pressure to frozen ready meal brands
                                                                                                                            • Own-label retains chilled ready meals dominance
                                                                                                                              • Charlie Bigham’s bucks the downward trend in ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                • Own-label extends share of new product launches
                                                                                                                                  • Premium launches reach a four-year high
                                                                                                                                    • Iceland adds two new ready meal ranges as part of plastic-free initiative
                                                                                                                                      • High/added-protein claims on the rise
                                                                                                                                        • Plant-based meals gain traction in NPD
                                                                                                                                          • Adspend declines in category
                                                                                                                                            • Wiltshire Farm Foods’ ads feature its customers; Quorn partners with celebrities to promote meat reduction
                                                                                                                                            • Market Share

                                                                                                                                              • Strong own-label sales growth adds pressure to frozen ready meal brands
                                                                                                                                                • Double-digit value and volume decline for two of the leading brands
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 17: UK retail sales of leading brands in the frozen ready meals market, by value and volume, 2015/16-2017/18
                                                                                                                                                • Strong growth for chilled ready meals
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 18: UK retail sales of leading brands in the chilled ready meals segment, by value and volume, 2015/16-2017/18
                                                                                                                                                • Charlie Bigham’s bucks the downward trend in the ready-to-cook foods segment
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 19: UK retail sales of leading brands in the ready-to-cook foods market, by value and volume, 2015/16-2017/18
                                                                                                                                              • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                • Own-label extends share of new product launches
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 20: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by launch type, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                • Premium launches reach a four-year high
                                                                                                                                                  • Sainsbury’s unveils new gourmet Supper Club brand
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 21: Examples from Sainsbury’s Supper Club range of chilled ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                  • Aldi adds three Specially Selected chilled ready meals to its portfolio
                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 22: An example from Aldi’s Specially Selected range of chilled ready meals, 2017
                                                                                                                                                  • Asda overhauls chilled ready meals with healthier and premium variants
                                                                                                                                                    • Tesco adds premium frozen ready meal brand Boxed to its portfolio
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 23: An example from Boxed’s range of frozen ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                    • ‘Restaurant-ready’ meals added to Ocado’s line-up
                                                                                                                                                      • Iceland adds two new ready meal ranges as part of plastic-free initiative
                                                                                                                                                        • Mumbai Street Co range is ‘inspired by street food’ and uses paper-based packaging
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 24: Examples from Iceland’s Mumbai Street Co range of frozen ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                        • Hungry Heroes nutritionally balanced ready meals target children
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 25: Examples from Iceland’s Hungry Heroes range of frozen ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                        • High/added-protein claims on the rise
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 26: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook foods market, by top 10 claims (sorted by 2017), 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                        • Asda launches High in Protein range of ready meals
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 27: Examples from Asda’s High in Protein range of chilled ready meals, 2017
                                                                                                                                                        • Aldi adds SlimFree range of ready meals
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 28: An example from Aldi’s SlimFree frozen ready meal range, 2017
                                                                                                                                                        • Tesco introduces Wicked Kitchen range of plant-based meals
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 29: Examples from Wicked Kitchen’s range of chilled plant-based ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                        • Plant-based pot meals gain traction in NPD
                                                                                                                                                          • Premium pot meal brand BOL Foods goes 100% vegan
                                                                                                                                                            • New vegan ready meals brand enters the UK market
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 30: Examples from Plantifull Food Co range of chilled ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                            • Charlie Bigham’s adds grain-based ready meals to its portfolio
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 31: Examples from Charlie Bingham’s rebranded range of chilled ready meals, 2018
                                                                                                                                                            • Tesco replaces Everyday Value ready meals with Hearty Food Co
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 32: Example of Tesco’s Everyday Value chilled ready meal and replacement Hearty Food Co, 2017
                                                                                                                                                            • Quorn launches aim to capitalise on buzz around meat-free foods
                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 33: Share of product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook foods market, labelled suitable for vegetarians or vegans, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                            • Kraft Heinz adds new frozen ready meals to try to revitalise Weight Watchers sales
                                                                                                                                                              • Wiltshire Farm Foods revamps its ready meal recipes
                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 34: New product launches in the UK prepared meals market, by top 10 companies (sorted by 2017), 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                              • Recipe box companies challenge retailers with offerings
                                                                                                                                                                • Gousto adds a Fine Dine-In range of recipe box kits
                                                                                                                                                                  • Meal box company Gourmade enters frozen ready meals market
                                                                                                                                                                  • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                                                                    • Adspend declines in category
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 35: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                    • Wiltshire Farm Foods’ ads feature its customers
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 36: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                    • M&S focuses on traceability of its beef
                                                                                                                                                                      • Quorn partners with Jermain Defoe and Ben Fogle to promote meat reduction
                                                                                                                                                                        • Charlie Bigham’s pitches itself as the answer to disappointing evening meals
                                                                                                                                                                          • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                                                                          • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                                                            • The majority of people eat ready meals or ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                                                              • Chilled ready meals and RTC foods are eaten the most frequently
                                                                                                                                                                                • Ready meals/RTC foods are most commonly eaten at weekday dinners
                                                                                                                                                                                  • A low salt content garners high interest
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Scope to boost use of meat alternatives in ready meals
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Strong interest in buying freshly made ready meals
                                                                                                                                                                                        • 36% have bought prepared foods for a special occasion
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Meat/fish and authentic recipe are top factors in a premium ready meal
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Ready meals can cater to fragmented meal occasions
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Two in five parents see ready meals as suitable for children
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Usage of Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                                • The majority of people eat ready meals or ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 37: Usage of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Chilled ready meals and RTC foods are eaten the most frequently
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 38: Usage frequency of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Under-35s are key eaters of non-chilled/-frozen ready meals
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Over half of consumers eat all four types of prepared foods
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 39: Repertoire of types of ready meals/ready-to-cook foods eaten, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Where and When Ready Meals/Ready-to-Cook Foods are Eaten

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ready meals/ready-to-cook foods are most commonly eaten at weekday dinners
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 40: When ready meals/ready-to-cook foods are eaten, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Under-35s most likely to have eaten prepared meals for lunch
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • The majority eat ready meals at home
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 41: Where ready meals/ready-to-cook foods are eaten, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Interest in Ready Meals/Ready-to-Cook Food Products

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • A low salt content garners high interest
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 42: Interest in innovation in ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Ready meals could look to use seasonings as a means of replacing salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 43: Example from Easy Bean’s one-pot non-chilled/-frozen ready meal range
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Environmentally friendly packaging appeals to two in five
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 44: Examples of disposal instructions on Iceland’s two new frozen ready meal ranges
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • ‘Carb alternatives’ could help consumers towards their 5-a-day
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 45: Example of a ‘carb alternative’ ready meal
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Scope to boost use of meat alternatives in ready meals
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Behaviours Relating to Purchasing of Ready Meals/Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Strong interest in buying freshly made ready meals
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 46: Behaviours relating to purchasing of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Ready meals can encourage people to try new cuisines
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • 36% have bought prepared foods for a special occasion
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Parents in full-time employment most likely to have bought prepared foods for a special occasion
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 47: Ready meals and ready-to-cook foods – CHAID – Tree output, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Important Factors in Premium Ready Meals

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Meat/fish and authentic recipe are top factors in a premium ready meal
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Meat/fish are elevated in a premium context
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Older age groups place more importance on meat/fish
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Authenticity must go beyond the term authentic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 48: Important factors in premium ready meals, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ethical sourcing can provide a premium point of difference
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 49: Examples of ready meals carrying ethical sourcing information
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Details of ingredient origin can combat negative perceptions of ready meals
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 50: Example of a ready meal detailing the origin of ingredients on-pack
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Attitudes towards Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • The majority agree that the quality of ready meals has improved
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 51: Attitudes towards ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ready meals can cater to fragmented meal occasions
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Visual aspects of ready meals play a key role in terms of appeal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 52: Example of a ready meal made with an array of colourful vegetables
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • How Ready Meal Packaging Influences the Perceived Suitability of a Meal for Children

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Two in five parents see ready meals as suitable for children
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Detailed health information is a reassuring trait
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 53: Heat map of areas of importance on a ready meal pack when shopping for dinner for children, Iceland Hungry Heroes, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Childish graphics are off-putting to adults
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 54: Heat map of areas of importance on a ready meal pack when shopping for dinner for children, M Just for Kids, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Health claims hold more sway than on-pack imagery
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 55: Heat map of areas of importance on a ready meal pack when shopping for dinner for children, Kirsty’s Kids’ Kitchen, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Appendix – Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Forecast methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 56: Best- and worst-case forecasts for the ready meals and ready-to-cook foods market, by value, 2018-23
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 57: Best- and worst-case forecasts for the ready meals and ready-to-cook foods market, by volume, 2018-23
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Appendix – Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 58: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook foods market, by sub-category, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 59: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-eat foods market, by launch type, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 60: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook foods market, by storage type, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 61: Share of new product launches in the UK prepared meals market, carrying a low/no/reduced sodium (salt) claim, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Appendix – Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 62: Share of above-the-line, online display and direct mail total advertising expenditure on ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by brand, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 63: Share of recorded above-the-line, online display and direct mail total advertising expenditure on ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by media type, 2014-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 64: Usage of types of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by age, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 65: Purchasing of ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 66: Usage and purchasing of ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 67: “Typically, how often do you look for new foods/flavours to try?”, by age, February 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 68: Ready meals and ready-to-cook foods – CHAID – Table output, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 69: Iceland Hungry Heroes fish pie ready meal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 70: Areas of importance on a ready meal pack when shopping for dinner for children, Iceland Hungry Heroes, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 71: Morrisons M Just for Kids fish pie ready meal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 72: Areas of importance on a ready meal pack when shopping for dinner for children, M Just for Kids, March 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 73: Kirsty’s Kids’ Kitchen fish pie ready meal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 74: Areas of importance on a ready meal pack when shopping for dinner for children, Kirsty’s Kids’ Kitchen, March 2018

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods - UK - July 2018

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