Description

This report provides comprehensive and current information and analysis of the prepared meals market including prepared and ready meals market size, anticipated market forecast, relevant market segmentation, and industry trends for the prepared meals market in the US.

Current ready-to-eat meals market landscape

The rush to home-based meal prep during the COVID-19 pandemic pushed prepared meals to new heights in 2020 and 2021, and inflation is pushing category dollar sales even higher in 2022. But apart from these short-term forces, the category has the potential to continue on the modestly positive course it has been on in earlier years. To meet that potential, prepared meals makers must work to meet ever-rising consumer expectations for product quality, health, and taste.

Market share and key industry trends

  • A modestly positive trend apart from pandemic and inflation
    The category had been generating modestly positive sales growth before the pandemic and spiking inflation and has the potential to continue on a positive course in coming years.
  • Meet rising expectations for quality
    Most category users acknowledge improvement, but amid ever-expanding competition from other convenient meal options, prepared meals makers must continue to focus on product quality.
  • Cuisine exploration can drive growth
    While familiar comfort foods may serve as a foundation for the category, new flavors and cuisines have the potential to drive growth by creating new use occasions and attracting new users.

Future trends in the prepared meals market

Usage of prepared meals and side dishes overall is widespread, with eight in 10 consumers reporting having eaten at least one type in the past three months. Usage of individual types, however, is considerably lower, suggesting the opportunity to cross-sell different types of prepared meals among consumers already using at least one type, especially larger households, which are likely to have a wider array of mealtime needs. Refreshing and expanding menu variety could be another way to increase usage frequency among current users. A notable example of this is the refrigerated meals segment, which has seen substantial growth in recent years, driven by new competitors collectively offering greater cuisine variety.

Read on to discover more about the prepared meals consumer market, read our Restaurant Takeout and Delivery – US – 2022, or take a look at our other Foodservice industry research reports.

Quickly understand the ready-to-eat meals market

  • Analysis of sales and market share trends in key category segments.
  • Motivations for prepared meal consumption and key attributes sought.
  • Consumer interest in prepared meal product concepts.
  • Attitudes toward prepared meals.

Covered in this ready meals market report

Brands include: Lloyd’s Barbecue, Hormel, Conagra Brands, Nestlé, Post Holdings Inc, Amy’s Kitchen, Reser’s Fine Foods, Kraft Heinz, Charoen Pokphand Foods, Golden West Food Group, Healthy Choice, Marie Callender’s, Banquet Mega Meats, Purple Carrot, Hungry-Man, Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Michelina’s, Boston Market, InnovAsian, Lawry’s, Rao’s Made for Home, Birds Eye, Bertolli, PF Chang’s, Giovanni Rana, John Soules, Del Real Foods, Kevin’s Natural Foods, Completely Fresh Foods, Jack Daniels, Tyson, Curly’s, AFC, Panera Bread at Home, Alexia, Bob Evans, Simply Potatoes, Reser’s, Del Monte, Green Giant, TGI Friday’s, Good & Gather, Great to Go, H-E-B, Amazon Kitchen, Trader Joe’s, Simple Truth, Wicked Kitchen, Urban Remedy.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by John Owen, a leading analyst in the Food and Retail sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis on ready meals industry growth to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Convenience is a defining benefit of the prepared meals category, but in an increasingly competitive marketplace, convenience alone isn’t enough to drive sustained growth. Prepared meals makers must work to meet ever-rising consumer expectations for product quality, health, and taste.

John Owen, Associate Director, Food and Retail
John Owen
Associate Director, Food and Retail

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of prepared meals, at current prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 2: Category outlook, 2022-27
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Opportunity to increase usage across and within product types
      • Figure 3: Prepared meal consumption, 2022
    • Emphasize the relative value of premium quality prepared meals
      • Figure 4: Attitudes toward prepared meals – Paying more for higher quality, by age, 2022
    • Make prepared meals a vehicle for cuisine exploration and creativity
      • Figure 5: Attitudes toward prepared meals, by age, 2022
    • Key consumer insights
    • Greater portioning flexibility could strengthen appeal among older adults
    • Beyond convenience: taste and health can motivate usage
    • Cuisine exploration and dietary preferences drive use among young adults
    • Familiarity remains an anchor for the category
    • Younger category users’ concept interests are especially varied
    • Efforts to improve perceptions of prepared meals appear to be paying off
  3. Market Size and Forecast

    • Inflation picks up where pandemic leaves off in driving dollar sales growth
      • Figure 6: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of prepared meals, at current prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 7: Total US retail sales and forecast of prepared meals, at current prices, 2017-27
  4. Segment Performance

    • Pandemic and price increases propel sales gains across all segments
    • Refrigerated meals receive extra boost from new entrants
      • Figure 8: Total US retail sales and forecast of prepared meals, by segment, at current prices, 2017-22
  5. Market Factors

    • Consumers feel the personal impact of accelerating inflation…
      • Figure 9: Personal assessment of financial health, 2021-22
    • …but may be still eager to return to pre-pandemic activities
      • Figure 10: Readiness to move on from the pandemic, 2021-22
      • Figure 11: Comfort with easing pandemic precautions, 2021-22
    • Shifting work patterns create opportunities for prepared meals
      • Figure 12: Prepared meal consumption, by work location, 2022
  6. Market Share/Key Players

    • Conagra and Nestle lead, but category offers opportunities for smaller players
    • Sales of prepared meals by company
      • Figure 13: Multi-outlet sales of prepared meals, by leading companies, rolling 52 weeks 2021 and 2022
    • Broad portfolio helps Conagra extend lead in single-serve frozen meals
      • Figure 14: Select Conagra single-serve frozen meals products
      • Figure 15: Multi-outlet sales of single-serve frozen meals, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2021 and 2022
    • Big multi-serve frozen meal brands lose share to smaller players offering variety
      • Figure 16: Select multi-serve frozen meals products
      • Figure 17: Multi-outlet sales of multi-serve frozen meals, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2021 and 2022
    • Smaller brands gain share, accelerate growth for refrigerated meals
      • Figure 18: Select refrigerated meals products
      • Figure 19: Multi-outlet sales of refrigerated meals, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2021 and 2022
    • Small brands and private label gain in side dishes
      • Figure 20: Select side dish products
      • Figure 21: Multi-outlet sales of side dishes, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2021 and 2022
  7. Competitive Strategies and Market Opportunities

    • Opportunity for private label to make further gains in the refrigerator case
      • Figure 22: Select private label refrigerated meals and sides
    • Meat-free claims on the rise as clean-label claims plateau
      • Figure 23: Select meat-free prepared meals launches
      • Figure 24: Incidence of select packaging claims on prepared meal launches, 2017-22
  8. The Prepared Meals Consumer – Fast Facts

    • Usage of prepared meals and side dishes overall is widespread
    • Usage skews to adults aged 54 and younger
    • Cuisine exploration and dietary preferences drive use among young adults
    • Familiarity and health especially important to older adults
  9. Consumption of Prepared Meals

    • Opportunity to increase usage across and within product types
      • Figure 25: Prepared meal consumption, 2022
    • Greater portioning flexibility could strengthen appeal across age groups
      • Figure 26: Prepared meal consumption, by age, 2022
    • Many report increased use, but consumption may be starting to slip
      • Figure 27: Changes in prepared meal consumption, 2022
  10. Reasons for Using Prepared Meals

    • Beyond convenience: taste and health can motivate usage
    • Some see prepared meals as a better value
      • Figure 28: Reasons for using prepared meals, 2022
    • Cuisine exploration and dietary preferences drive use among young adults
      • Figure 29: Reasons for using prepared meals, by age, 2022
  11. Attribute Importance

    • Familiarity remains an anchor for the category
      • Figure 30: Prepared meal attribute importance, 2022
    • Familiarity and health especially important to older adults
      • Figure 31: Prepared meal attribute importance, by age, 2022
  12. Interest in Prepared Meal Concepts

    • Interests reflect the breadth of consumer food priorities and preferences
      • Figure 32: Interest in prepared meal concepts, 2022
    • Younger category users’ concept interests are especially varied
      • Figure 33: Interest in prepared meal concepts, by age, 2022
  13. Attitudes toward Prepared Meals

    • Improving perceptions help prepared meals stay relevant
      • Figure 34: Attitudes toward prepared meals, 2022
    • Emphasize the relative value of premium quality prepared meals
    • Make prepared meals a vehicle for cuisine exploration and creativity
      • Figure 35: Attitudes toward prepared meals, by age, 2022
  14. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Forecast
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms
  15. Appendix – The Market

      • Figure 36: Total US retail sales and forecast of prepared meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 37: Total US retail sales and forecast of single-serve frozen meals, at current prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 38: Total US retail sales and forecast of single-serve frozen meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 39: Total US retail sales and forecast of multi-serve frozen meals, at current prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 40: Total US retail sales and forecast of multi-serve frozen meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 41: Total US retail sales and forecast of refrigerated meals, at current prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 42: Total US retail sales and forecast of refrigerated meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 43: Total US retail sales and forecast of side dishes, at current prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 44: Total US retail sales and forecast of side dishes, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2017-27
      • Figure 45: Total US retail sales of prepared meals, by channel, at current prices, 2017-22
      • Figure 46: Multi-outlet volume sales of prepared meals, by segment, 2017-22

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