Fresh/Refrigerated Meals and Side Dishes Market
The primary consumer needs related to fresh meals and side dishes are that of convenience and health, with refrigerated meals and sides remaining uniquely positioned to satisfy both consumer preferences. However, fresh meals and sides are facing renewed competition from frozen foods, which are increasing in popularity, as well as the more generally changing landscape of competitors offering fast and easy access to prepared food products.
- According to US food solutions company Grande, "convenience is key," and remains the "main driver" for US consumers when selecting "prepared food products."
- Similarly, research company Magid highlights that convenience is the "key pillar" for day to day food choices by consumers.
- US consumers also highly prioritize "health," or products which are not "overly processed" and that are "more nutritious," when purchasing prepared foods, with more than 37% of consumers eating fewer processed foods.
- Notably, "fresh, ready-made foods" are generally viewed as an option that satisfies both the desire for healthy and convenient meals and sides.
- Meanwhile, along similar lines, research and analytics consultancy IRI reported a rise in consumer preferences for "protein content" and "on-the-go snacking," which has driven a 14.72% increase in sales and 12.95% increase in units sold for refrigerated lunches and sides.
- Additionally, IRI highlighted the consumer need for a balance between the familiar and the new in food products, adding that fresh, convenient foods need to provide a simplicity of ingredients that's familiar, alongside a "foreign taste" or more "on-trend culinary appeal."
- Perhaps the most significant challenge facing the fresh meals and side dishes market is the return of the US consumer to frozen foods.
- According to researcher NPD, frozen foods are no longer in the "shadows" of the "health-focused fresh movement," as the new "general market consensus" has shifted to view frozen foods as offering the same health advantages of fresher options.
- Specifically, frozen foods were part of 9.8 billion "eating occasions" within the US home in 2018, representing a 2% rise from the past decade.
- Additionally, 43% of millennials are purchasing frozen foods more often, representing a significant market influence given that millennials have approximately $600 billion in buying power per year.
- In contrast, US customers are "losing interest in meal kits," which stand as a competitor for fresh meals and side dishes based on convenience and health benefits.
- However, the pressures faced by meal kits may also present a challenge for fresh meals and sides, given that both industries must address the "constant change" in consumer preferences, as well as increasing competition overall from providers like Amazon/Whole Foods and online, direct to consumer platforms.
- More generally, an inherent and continued challenge for the fresh meals and sides industry is the "shorter shelf-lives" of fresh products, owing to the inclusion of natural ingredients.