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US Prepared Meals market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Prepared Meals market, its consumers and the major players who make up that market.

Market

Point of sale market data

In conjunction with IRi, extensive point of sale data shows you what consumers are spending their money on

Market Size

How big is the market today and what is our 5 year forecast? Includes both best & worst case scenarios

Market Segmentation

What are the different segments within the market and how are those individual segments performing?

Consumer

Consumer behaviors

What are consumers looking for, what drives their buying habits and what are their main purchase influencers?

Demographic breakdown

From iGen & Millennials to Baby Boomers & beyond. Who is spending money and what are they spending it on?

Representative sample

We gather our data from real-world consumers, selected to accurately reflect precise global demographics

Players

Company strategy

What are the key players doing, what has been successful for them and what was their marketing spend?

Product innovation

Using data from our Global New Product Database, what products were launched and how well were they perceived?

Opportunities

What happens next, which areas are likely to experience growth and what opportunities exist within the market?

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by John Owen, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The prepared meals category reversed its downward course in 2015 and 2016 with small increases that nearly wiped out declines in the three previous years. Total sales of $10.5 billion in 2016 are up about 3% from a low point in 2014 but still below their 2011 level by about 1%. The modest reversal of fortune for the category reflects stabilization in single-serve and multiserve frozen meals, which together account for 71% of category sales, and continued growth in both refrigerated and frozen side dishes. John Owen
Senior Food & Drink Analyst

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

This report discusses the following key topics:

Definition

This Report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Prepared Meals – US, May 2016, Prepared Meals and Sides – US, November 2015, and Prepared Meals & Side Dishes – US, May 2014 in addition to Frozen Meals – US, May 2013 as well as the same title in May 2012, September 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, and previous years. This Report also builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Side Dishes – US, June 2010 as well as the same title in June 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2003.

For the purposes of this Report, prepared meals are defined as complete meals or entrées that are precooked and frozen or refrigerated. These meals usually include a side dish and require minimal preparation or cooking time.

Side dishes are defined in this Report as products intended to be used alongside an entrée or meal center. These items can be frozen or refrigerated. Please note that while the industry has a clear definition of side dishes, the demarcation is not so clear to the consumer, who may well use specific side dishes as a meal or a snack.

The primary segments include the following:

  • Single-serve frozen meals
  • Multiserve frozen meals
  • Refrigerated meals
  • Side dishes (including frozen side dishes and refrigerated dishes that are sold in meat and deli cases and require only microwaving), and refrigerated salads

Excluded from this Report are meals and side dishes prepared instore and sold in the fresh deli or other departments. Also excluded are meals and side dishes sold through foodservice venues.

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • Category sales shift to modest growth
            • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of prepared meals, at current prices, 2011-21
          • Penetration high for prepared meals overall
            • Figure 2: Prepared meals purchase, March 2017
          • Convenience drives purchase; other areas could drive growth
            • Figure 3: Reasons for purchasing prepared meals, March 2017
          • Mix of health and taste important to both individual and family shoppers
            • Figure 4: Attribute importance for prepared meals, March 2017
          • The opportunities
            • Taste and snacking important motivations for young adults
              • Figure 5: Reasons for purchasing prepared meals, by gender and age, March 2017
            • Combining organic, vegetarian, and snacking
              • Figure 6: Prepared meals innovation areas, by age, March 2017
            • Encouraging stock-up may help to increase purchase and consumption
              • Figure 7: Prepared meals behaviors, by change in purchase frequency, March 2017
            • What it means
            • The Market – What You Need to Know

              • Category sales shift to modest growth
                • Frozen meals sales level off after years of declines
                  • Side dishes drive growth
                  • Market Size and Forecast

                    • Category sales shift to modest growth
                      • Figure 8: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of prepared meals, at current prices, 2011-21
                      • Figure 9: Total US sales and forecast of prepared meals, at current prices, 2011-21
                  • Market Breakdown

                    • Frozen meals sales level off after years of declines
                      • Figure 10: Share of prepared meals sales, by segment, 2016
                    • Side dishes drive growth
                      • Sales of refrigerated meals hold steady
                        • Figure 11: Total US sales and forecast of prepared meals, by segment, at current prices, 2011-16
                    • Market Perspective

                      • Weak category performance consistent with center-store as a whole
                        • In center-store, shelf stable outpaces frozen food
                          • Figure 12: MULO sales and forecast of center of the store, by segment, at current prices, 2011-21
                        • Beyond portability: Farmer’s Fridge sells meals in vending machines
                        • Market Factors

                          • Increasing interest in cooking could spell trouble for prepared meals
                            • Figure 13: Attitudes/opinions about food, any agree, May 2006-June 2015
                          • Prepared meal consumption resonates among households with children
                            • Figure 14: Households, by presence of own children, 2006-16
                          • Hispanics, particularly Millennials, opt for prepared meals/sides
                            • Figure 15: US population, by race and Hispanic origin, 2012-22
                        • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                          • Nestlé strengthens its position as top competitor in category
                            • Pinnacle Foods generates solid gains
                              • Small and mighty: Frozen side dishes drive category sales growth
                                • Appealing to personal dietary preferences
                                  • Comfort and cravings hold their own amid healthy eating trend
                                    • Stouffer’s stakes out territory between prepared meals and scratch cooking
                                      • Oprah Winfrey could help to energize refrigerated meals segment
                                      • Company Sales of Prepared Meals

                                        • Nestlé strengthens its position as top competitor in category
                                          • Pinnacle Foods generates solid gains
                                            • Kraft Heinz launches new brands
                                              • Sales of prepared meals by company
                                                • Figure 16: MULO sales of prepared meals, by leading companies, rolling 52 weeks 2016 and 2017
                                            • What’s Working?

                                              • Small and mighty: Frozen side dishes drive category sales growth
                                                • Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s gain in single-serve frozen meals
                                                  • Appealing to personal dietary preferences
                                                    • Comfort and cravings hold their own amid healthy eating trend
                                                    • What’s Struggling?

                                                      • Banquet sales continue to slide
                                                      • What’s Next?

                                                        • Stouffer’s stakes out territory between prepared meals and scratch cooking
                                                          • Oprah Winfrey could help to energize refrigerated meals segment
                                                          • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                            • Penetration high for prepared meals overall
                                                              • Convenience drives purchase; other areas could drive growth
                                                                • Dinner the most common use, but snacks could be growth opportunity
                                                                  • Mix of health and taste important to both individual and family shoppers
                                                                    • A focus on taste and variety
                                                                      • Consumers more likely to report cutting back than increasing purchase
                                                                      • Prepared Meals Purchase

                                                                        • Penetration high for prepared meals overall
                                                                          • Figure 17: Prepared meals purchase, March 2017
                                                                        • Young adults, men 18-34 especially, a key market for category
                                                                          • Figure 18: Prepared meals purchase – Any purchase, by gender and age, March 2017
                                                                        • Hispanics more likely to purchase prepared meals
                                                                          • Figure 19: Prepared meals purchase – Any purchase, by race/hispanic origin, March 2017
                                                                        • In their words: other options considered for convenient meals
                                                                        • Reasons for Purchase

                                                                          • Convenience drives purchase; other areas could drive growth
                                                                            • Figure 20: Reasons for purchasing prepared meals, March 2017
                                                                          • Taste and cuisine variety linked to increased purchase
                                                                            • Figure 21: Reasons for purchasing prepared meals, by change in purchase frequency, March 2017
                                                                          • Taste and snacking important motivations for young adults
                                                                            • Figure 22: Reasons for purchasing prepared meals, by gender and age, March 2017
                                                                        • When Prepared Meals Are Eaten

                                                                          • Dinner the most common use, but snacks could be growth opportunity
                                                                            • Figure 23: When prepared meals are eaten, March 2017
                                                                          • Young adults likely to look beyond traditional meals
                                                                            • Figure 24: When prepared meals are eaten, by gender and age, March 2017
                                                                          • In their words: when prepared meals are eaten
                                                                          • Attribute Importance

                                                                            • Mix of health and taste important to both individual and family shoppers
                                                                              • Figure 25: Attribute importance for prepared meals, March 2017
                                                                            • Older adults focused on traditional “low/no” health claims
                                                                              • Figure 26: Attribute importance for prepared meals purchased for self, by age, March 2017
                                                                          • Interest in Innovations and Features

                                                                            • A focus on taste and variety
                                                                              • Figure 27: Prepared meals innovation areas, March 2017
                                                                            • Combining organic, vegetarian, and snacking
                                                                              • Figure 28: Prepared meals innovation areas, by age, March 2017
                                                                            • In their words: designing the ideal prepared meal
                                                                            • Prepared Meals Behaviors

                                                                              • Consumers more likely to report cutting back than increasing purchase
                                                                                • Figure 29: Prepared meals behaviors, March 2017
                                                                              • Encouraging stock-up may help to increase purchase and consumption
                                                                                • Figure 30: Prepared meals behaviors, by change in purchase frequency, March 2017
                                                                              • In their words: changes in consumption of prepared meals and sides
                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                • Data sources
                                                                                  • Sales data
                                                                                    • Fan chart forecast
                                                                                      • Consumer survey data
                                                                                        • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                          • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                            • Abbreviations
                                                                                              • Terms
                                                                                              • Appendix – Market

                                                                                                  • Figure 31: Total US sales and forecast of prepared meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2011-21
                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Total US sales and forecast of single-serve frozen meals, at current prices, 2011-21
                                                                                                  • Figure 33: Total US sales and forecast of multiserve frozen meals, at current prices, 2011-21
                                                                                                  • Figure 34: Total US sales and forecast of refrigerated meals, at current prices, 2011-21
                                                                                                  • Figure 35: Total US sales and forecast of side dishes, at current prices, 2011-21
                                                                                                  • Figure 36: Total US sales and forecast of side dishes, by temperature state, at current prices, 2011-16
                                                                                                  • Figure 37: Total US sales and forecast of prepared meals, channel, at current prices, 2011-16
                                                                                              • Appendix – Key Players

                                                                                                  • Figure 38: MULO sales of single-serve frozen meals, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2016 and 2017
                                                                                                  • Figure 39: MULO sales of multiserve frozen meals, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2016 and 2017
                                                                                                  • Figure 40: MULO sales of refrigerated meals, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2016 and 2017
                                                                                                  • Figure 41: MULO sales of side dishes, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2016 and 2017