Ready meals deliver boost to UK red meat sector

Ready meals drove up to 4.3% growth in the last year
calendar icon 1 April 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

According to a press release from the UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), sales of red meat pre-prepared meals have grown 2.4% in the last year, with the number of shoppers choosing convenient meals now at a five-year high.

Over the last year, the red meat pre-prepared meal industry was worth £1.1 billion (USD$1.45 billion) – with 260 million convenience meals, such as pizza and ready meals, eaten in January alone.

According to a new article by AHDB, time-poor consumers after returning to convenience meals after a huge drop in sales at the start of the pandemic, with 11.5 per cent of all meals consumed at home now having little or no preparation time.

“At the start of the pandemic, we saw a rise in homemade meals cooked from scratch as people had more time at home," said AHDB Retail Insight Manager Grace Randall. "But with everyday life become busier, shoppers are turning back to easy meals."

“This change in consumer needs has had an impact on the types of foods shoppers buy from the supermarket and some of the quickest and easiest meals to cook are preprepared meals," she added.

Pre-prepared meals includes main meal accompaniments such as meat in a sauce, whereas ready meals include sides, namely rice or potatoes.

While total retail volumes of meat, fish and poultry fell by 6.3% in the 52 weeks to February 2022, preprepared meals were up 3.2%, according to Kantar, with ready meals driving most of the growth – up 4.3%.

Pork was the fastest growing meat in ready meals with Italian being the most popular cuisine, representing 66% share of chilled pork ready meals. Italian cuisine also makes up the largest share of chilled beef ready meals at 65%.

British dishes are in decline in both the beef and pork ready meal market, with Mexican and Asian ready meals making up just a 6% share of pork ready meals – showing an opportunity to expand world cuisines, which are currently limited.

The growth of pre-prepared meals has come from all age groups, but consumers under the age of 28 increased volumes by more than half, but from a low base. Empty nesters represent the largest growth when looking at different life stages.

“There are definitely opportunities to grow the red meat convenience market in the future, especially as a cheaper option compared to the eating out and takeaway markets," Grace added.

“However, it’s also important to note, that as budgets get squeezed over the next year, for some consumers prepared meals may have to justify their higher price, as on average, they cost 68 pence more per person than scratch cooked meals.”

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