Growth of ready-to-go meals in Australia
Recently, the popularity of ready-made meal solutions in Australia has increased exponentially. According to IBIS Australia, the packed meal market has grown by 3.6% annually in that time, and is now worth around $600 million.
So why is this becoming the next big thing?
The answer lies within the lifestyle of today’s average consumer. In general, they’re a lot more time-poor than contemporaries from previous generations.
A typical family group today has both parents working full-time jobs, and even single millennials are trying to juggle work and study.
People simply don’t have that extra hour in the evening to cook dinner then clean the kitchen. Hence the opportune arrival of ready meals to fill a growing gap in the food industry.
This trend has been gathering on the horizon in Australia for a while, beginning with the introduction into supermarkets of ready-to-eat products, like pre-washed and cut salad; then meal kits by companies like Hello Fresh to simplify home cooking. Finally, came ready meals.
While ready meals have been around for a while, the sort in vogue at the moment are an entirely different breed. They’re not your typical frozen pizza or meat pie. Many are more complex, epicurean and healthy than anything the average Australian could cook at home.
Consumers today are archetypally more health conscious, and therefore want convenience combined with fresh and nutritional ingredients in these meals. They also expect ready meals that cater for their personal dietary preferences - such as paleo or gluten-free options. And they are getting it.
There are dozens of start-up companies all over Australia providing frozen or even just chilled meals, pre-made by professional chefs and even delivered directly customers doors, such as Lite n Easy or YouFoodz. Supermarkets have also jumped on the trend, offering a wide selection of frozen or chilled meals. Even some small businesses in the food industry, such as delicatessens and butchers - Meatsmith Heritage Butchers for example - have climbed on the bandwagon.
With today’s consumer only getting busier, it seems likely that high-quality ready meals will only grow in popularity. For many food-related businesses, this is a potential gold mine waiting to be tapped. A new, innovative way to offer products you already sell as a finished package.
However, if you plan to begin offering ready-made meals, there are a couple of points you should consider. First, convenience is key. Customers buy ready meals because they want to eat well with less effort and less investment of time. Make sure the consumer has to do as little as possible to the meal before eating.
Secondly, cater for all customers. Many people think family-sized dinners when they think ready meal, but there’s a huge and largely unexploited market for ready meals among young working singles that don’t have the time or inclination to cook for themselves. The younger, working demographic have been brought up to value nutrition, and so for them ready meals could be the new takeaway.
How to get onboard and start offering ready-to-go meals for your customers?
Think about the sort of product that your customers could typically take to work and heat in an oven/microwave. Does the product cater for a range of food groups to make up a well-balanced meal? Do you need to add some greens to give it that extra edge?
Next is the execution - qulity equipment will get it all done for you while reducing costs on labour associated. Semi-automatic and gas flushed Viking AMAPs or VMAPs Tray Sealers mean that you can get your meal packaged and ready-to-go on the shelves for your customers to grab and enjoy.
The potential of this idea of ready-made meals is far broader than most realise. As the quality of food and service being offered with these meals increases, they become more multi-purposed. Instead of being a cheap, one-off option when we’re too busy to do cook, it can become a way to experience personalized gourmet dining from home. From what we can see, no-ones life is getting any less busy anytime soon, so customers are willing to pay to save time.
For all businesses involved in the food industry, it would be wise to take a good look at their compatibility with this potentially massive new alternative in everyday eating for Australians.