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1 Market overview

1.1 Definition and scope of study

Ready meals are dishes that need only to be heated, or prepared in short time, before being consumed. They can be found in different formats such as canned, vacuum-packed or frozen. These ready-to-eat products are distributed in retail stores or small local shops and allow you to eat easily, avoiding concerns about spending any time cooking.

Today we are witnessing a quantitative and qualitative diversification of offer in the ready meals market as more players emerge. In particular, quality is central. The production chain also tends to be more complex, with distributors starting to manufacture their own products, and with the emergence of young companies producing pre-cooked meals in an attempt to shake up the established hierarchy.

The global market is booming. Divided per segment, we find that sales revenue in 2019 was the highest for frozen ready meals, followed by chilled ready meals, and prepared salads. The product offer continues to evolve to cater the needs of different customer types and to meet new trends around food, such as healthiness. Moreover, ready meals are appealing as they offer a fast and convenient way of consuming food, whilst they are also viewed as more appealing due to the relative freshness of ingredients compared to for example frozen foods.

Additionally, the global market is fragmented with a large number of market players. Indeed, the three largest companies (Nestlé, Kraft Heinz Co, and ConAgra Brands) held 12.7% of the total market share in 2019.

In the United States, the market is growing slowly but steadily, as a sub-segment Dinner Mixes showed the largest growth (+38.2%) in sales between 2014 and 2019. Consumers in the US first and foremost value the convenience of ready meals. In 2018, a study from Grocery Business showed that 76% of respondents valued convenience, followed by taste and flavor (46%).

The market’s future growth depends on an ever-increasing product innovation to accommodate the taste preference of all consumers. For instance, healthy alternatives related to vegetarianism and vegan diets are booming. Additionally, alternative packaging methods are used to mitigate negative externalities on the environment.

The market is relatively fragmented, but two companies hold over a fifth of the market. The most popular brands measured through sales in 2019 were Oscar Mayer, Fresh Express, and DiGiorno.

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the ready meal market | United States

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