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Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods - UK - July 2019

Covered in this report

This report examines ready meals and ready-to-cook foods. Mintel’s market size includes products sold through the grocery retail channel including:

Chilled and frozen ready meals, including complete and part meals, and meal centres. This includes complete meals such as spaghetti Bolognese and curry with rice.

Ready-to-cook (RTC) foods are chilled food specifically positioned as needing no further preparation on the part of the consumer other than opening the packet and cooking the product according to the on-pack instructions. The major grocers have developed their own specific sub-branded ranges of such foods, such as the Sainsbury’s Just Cook range. It should be noted that some sectors of the trade use the terms ‘part prepared’ or ‘partially prepared foods’ – both terms are deemed to refer to ready-to-cook foods as defined for the purpose of this report.

Pies’ that have no pastry content (for example, shepherd’s pie) and, therefore, do not conform to Mintel’s definition of a pie are included as ready meals in this report.

“Health concerns pose a long-standing barrier to uptake. Promisingly, however, there is high openness to meals with healthier ingredients or options featuring fortification, offering clear evidence that ready meals have permission to position themselves as contributing to nutritious diets and healthy lifestyles.”

– Amy Price, Senior Food and Drink Analyst

This report examines the following issues:

  • Healthy proposition can win over prepared meals users
  • Ethical meat is of high interest to consumers
  • Calling out time saved could reinforce convenience of prepared meals

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

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

          • The market
            • Market comes under pressure in 2019
              • Figure 1: Forecast of UK retail value sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2014-24
            • Companies and brands
              • Own-label continues to dominate chilled ready meals
                • Weight Watchers leads in frozen ready meals, despite sales drop
                  • Charlie Bigham’s defies downward trend in ready-to-cook foods
                    • Own-label continues to dominate the market by NPD
                      • Vegan launches continue to gain attention
                        • Retailers launch lighter lines
                          • Advertisers increased spend in 2018
                            • The consumer
                              • 88% of UK adults eat ready meals/ready-to-cook foods
                                • Figure 2: Usage of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, May 2019
                              • Healthy proposition can win over prepared meals users
                                • Figure 3: Interest in innovation in ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                              • Time pressures prompt 47% to eat ready meals/ready-to-cook foods
                                • Figure 4: Reasons for eating ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                              • Processed image is the leading deterrent, followed by cost
                                • Figure 5: Barriers to eating ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                              • Ethical meat is of high interest to consumers
                                • Figure 6: Attitudes towards ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                              • What we think
                              • Issues and Insights

                                • Healthy proposition can win over prepared meals users
                                  • The facts
                                    • The implications
                                      • Ethical meat is of high interest to consumers
                                        • The facts
                                          • The implications
                                            • Calling out time saved could reinforce convenience of prepared meals
                                              • The facts
                                                • The implications
                                                • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                  • Market comes under pressure in 2019
                                                    • Further challenges ahead
                                                      • Chilled ready meals continue to lead
                                                        • Frozen ready meals see decline worsen
                                                          • Health remains a concern for consumers
                                                            • Scratch cooking poses a threat to prepared meals
                                                              • Improved household incomes give opportunities for premium products
                                                              • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                • Market comes under pressure in 2019
                                                                  • Figure 7: UK retail value and volume sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2014-24
                                                                • Values expected to rise but volumes to suffer
                                                                  • Decline in young people and children could dampen demand
                                                                    • Threat from delivery services
                                                                      • Scratch cooking is seen to be enjoyable, healthier and more affordable
                                                                        • Figure 8: Forecast of UK retail value sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2014-24
                                                                        • Figure 9: Forecast of UK retail volume sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, 2014-24
                                                                      • Forecast methodology
                                                                      • Market Segmentation

                                                                        • Chilled ready meals continue to lead
                                                                          • Figure 10: UK retail value and volume sales and shares of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by segment, 2017-19
                                                                        • Frozen ready meals see decline worsen
                                                                          • Ready-to-cook foods fail to grow share
                                                                          • Market Drivers

                                                                            • Health remains a concern for consumers
                                                                              • Salt, calories and processed image as put-offs in ready meals
                                                                                • PHE proposes draft calorie limit for ready meals
                                                                                  • Meat reduction trend continues
                                                                                    • Scratch cooking poses a threat to prepared meals
                                                                                      • Improved household incomes give opportunities for premium products
                                                                                        • Figure 11: CPI vs average weekly earnings, 2013-19
                                                                                      • Uncertainties surround consumer finances post-Brexit
                                                                                        • Pressure grows on the food industry to reduce packaging waste
                                                                                          • Decline in 20-34s could adversely impact the market
                                                                                            • Figure 12: Change in age structure of the UK population, 2013-18 and 2018-23
                                                                                        • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                          • Own-label continues to dominate chilled ready meals
                                                                                            • Weight Watchers leads in frozen ready meals, despite sales drop
                                                                                              • Charlie Bigham’s defies downward trend in ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                • Own-label continues to dominate NPD in the market
                                                                                                  • Vegan launches continue to gain attention
                                                                                                    • Retailers launch lighter lines
                                                                                                      • Advertisers increased spend in 2018
                                                                                                      • Market Share

                                                                                                        • Own-label continues to dominate chilled ready meals
                                                                                                          • Charlie Bigham’s see strong growth
                                                                                                            • Figure 13: UK retail sales of leading brands in chilled ready meals, by value and volume, 2016/17-2018/19
                                                                                                          • Weight Watchers leads in frozen ready meals, despite sales drop
                                                                                                            • Figure 14: UK retail sales of leading brands in frozen ready meals, by value and volume, 2016/17-2018/19
                                                                                                          • Charlie Bigham’s defies downward trend in ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                            • Figure 15: UK retail sales of leading brands in ready-to-cook foods, by value and volume, 2016/17-2018/19
                                                                                                        • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                          • Own-label continues to dominate the market
                                                                                                            • International cuisines feature strongly in own-label launches
                                                                                                              • Figure 16: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by top 10 companies, 2015-19 (sorted by total)
                                                                                                            • Sainsbury’s replaces Basics line with exclusive brand in frozen
                                                                                                              • Figure 17: Sainsbury’s replaces Basics with Stamford St. Food Company in frozen ready meals, 2019
                                                                                                            • Own-label stands out for being trustworthy and providing food value, on average
                                                                                                              • Figure 18: Perception map of attribute performance of own-label prepared meals in comparison to branded prepared meals among UK consumers, April 2018-May 2019
                                                                                                            • Charlie Bigham’s repackages and looks to vegetarian trend
                                                                                                              • Figure 19: Charlie Bigham’s focuses on repackaging, 2017 vs 2019
                                                                                                              • Figure 20: Charlie Bigham’s launches vegetarian products, 2019
                                                                                                            • Vegan launches continue to gain attention
                                                                                                              • Deliciously Ella enters the fray
                                                                                                                • Grocers step up activity
                                                                                                                  • Figure 21: Morrisons and M&S unveil vegan ranges, 2018 and 2019
                                                                                                                • Bol extends to dinner boxes
                                                                                                                  • Figure 22: Share of new product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market with the vegan claim, 2015-19
                                                                                                                • Birds Eye launches Veggie Bowls
                                                                                                                  • Retailers launch lighter lines
                                                                                                                    • Figure 23: Retailers launch health-focused meals, 2019
                                                                                                                  • A role for healthy ingredients
                                                                                                                    • Few brands look to emphasise naturalness
                                                                                                                      • Figure 24: Benjamin’s Kitchen has a natural focus, Birds Eye’s Veggie Bowls enjoy a natural image, 2019
                                                                                                                    • Restaurant brands extend their reach in ready meals
                                                                                                                      • Figure 25: Supermarkets sell restaurant-branded meals, 2018 and 2019
                                                                                                                    • Looking beyond chilled varieties
                                                                                                                      • Tesco aims to breathe life into canned meals
                                                                                                                          • Figure 26: Tesco launches canned meals under its T. E. Stockwell & Co. tertiary brand, 2019
                                                                                                                        • Young’s launches steam-cooked frozen range
                                                                                                                          • Symington’s unveils 25-strong ambient range with international flavours
                                                                                                                            • Premium claims rise
                                                                                                                              • Figure 27: Supermarkets continue to launch premium meals, 2019
                                                                                                                            • Emphasising product origin
                                                                                                                              • A focus on homemade/handmade credentials
                                                                                                                                • Manufacturers look to packaging as spotlight on plastic endures
                                                                                                                                  • Premium brands use wooden trays for green credentials and standout
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 28: Ready meals with wooden trays as packaging, 2019
                                                                                                                                  • Waitrose introduces compostable packaging for ready meals
                                                                                                                                    • Iceland removes black plastic packaging from frozen ready meals
                                                                                                                                      • Competing with delivery services
                                                                                                                                        • Morrisons launches own subscription
                                                                                                                                          • M&S launches meal kits
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 29: M&S launches meal kits, 2019
                                                                                                                                        • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                                          • Advertisers increased spend in 2018
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 30: Total above-the line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on ready meals, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                          • Marlow Foods leads spend; supporting its Tikka Masala meal
                                                                                                                                            • Figure 31: Total above-the line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on ready meals^, by top 10 advertisers (sorted by 2018), 2015-19
                                                                                                                                          • M&S and Iceland increase spend
                                                                                                                                            • Charlie Bigham’s focuses on outdoor
                                                                                                                                              • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                                              • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                                • 88% of UK adults eat ready meals/ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                                  • Two in five people eat chilled ready meals at least weekly
                                                                                                                                                    • Healthy proposition can win over prepared meals users
                                                                                                                                                      • Environmentally-friendly packaging would appeal to 30%
                                                                                                                                                        • Time pressures prompt 47% to eat ready meals/ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                                          • 32% turn to ready meals when eating on their own
                                                                                                                                                            • Processed image is the leading deterrent
                                                                                                                                                              • Expense puts off 40%
                                                                                                                                                                • Ethical meat is of high interest to consumers
                                                                                                                                                                  • Prepared meals are seen as a cheap way to try a new cuisine for 49%
                                                                                                                                                                  • Usage

                                                                                                                                                                    • 88% of UK adults eat ready meals/ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 32: Usage of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                    • Youth bias to usage
                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 33: Usage of any ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by age, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                    • Single-person households are core users, but the meals are popular with parents too
                                                                                                                                                                      • Two in five people eat chilled ready meals at least weekly
                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 34: Frequency of usage of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, by type, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                      • 50% of consumers eat all four types
                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 35: Repertoire of types of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods eaten, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                    • Interest in Ready Meals/Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                      • Healthy proposition can win over prepared meals users
                                                                                                                                                                        • Healthy ingredients are widely in demand
                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 36: Interest in innovation in ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                        • More activity in functional benefits chimes with one in four
                                                                                                                                                                          • More products with ‘no nasties’ in demand
                                                                                                                                                                            • A quarter (23%) want more larger sizes; especially men
                                                                                                                                                                              • More high protein meals interest one in five
                                                                                                                                                                                • Environmentally-friendly packaging would appeal to 30%
                                                                                                                                                                                • Reasons to Eat Ready Meals/Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Time pressures prompt 47% to eat ready meals/ready-to-cook foods
                                                                                                                                                                                    • 43% opt for ready meals when they don’t want to cook
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 37: Reasons for eating ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                    • 32% turn to ready meals when eating on their own; 44% want more sharing formats
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Strong demand for more sharing formats
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Portion control offered by ready meals appeals to 11%
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Barriers to Eating Ready Meals/Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Processed image is the leading deterrent
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Baby food can offer inspiration
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 38: Gourmade looks to clean label and to emphasise freshness, 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Vegetable ‘pots’ make transparency literal
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Information on sourcing should combat concerns
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 39: Barriers to eating ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Expense puts off 40%
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Attitudes towards Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Ethical meat is of high interest to consumers
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Animal welfare should resonate in premium meals
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 40: Attitudes towards ready meals/ready-to-cook foods, May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ready meals/ready-to-cook foods are seen to reduce waste by 38%
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Prepared meals are seen as a cheap way to try a new cuisine for 49%
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Prepared meals offer too much choice for 32%
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

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

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Forecast methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 41: UK value sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, best- and worst-case forecast, 2019-24
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 42: UK volume sales of ready meals and ready-to-cook foods, best- and worst-case forecast, 2019-24
                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 43: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by private label vs branded, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 44: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by launch type, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 45: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by storage type, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 46: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by top 10 claims, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 47: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by claim category, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 48: Perception map of attribute performance of Tesco chicken curry in comparison to prepared meals among UK consumers, April 2018-May 2019
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 49: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, with the vegan claim, by private label vs branded, 2015-19
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 50: New product launches in the UK ready meals and ready-to-cook market, by package type, 2015-19

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ready Meals and Ready-to-Cook Foods - UK - July 2019

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