Market Trends and Challenges for Ready-to-Eat Foods

Cultural forces like higher disposable incomes and busier lives are driving increased demand for convenient food options, including ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. According to research from Future Market Insights (FMI), the global RTE market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.2% through 2026, reaching a value of more than $195 billion.

Here are some current trends in the RTE food products market, as well as the challenges facing manufacturers.

The trends

Meat and poultry account for the largest share of the RTE market

Of the various grocery segments, meat and poultry is expected to account for the biggest share of the market, comprising 45.7% value share in 2016 and expanding at a CAGR of 7.7% over the forecast period.

Growth in this category stems from consumers’ desire for convenient protein-packed foods, evidenced by the increasing demand for on-the-go items like meat snacks.

Frozen foods appeal to Millennials — with some caveats

Frozen food sales have been chilly for a while, but according to Nielsen and Acosta, Millennials are bringing them back.

Not surprisingly, the main reason Millennials are shopping the freezer aisle is convenience — Acosta found that frozen foods are considered quick dinner solutions, convenient breakfasts for kids, side dishes, and convenient lunches. And almost one-third of Millennials say they plan to purchase more frozen foods this year.

The caveats? Millennials are looking for the same qualities in frozen foods that they are in fresh:

  • No antibiotics
  • Hormone free
  • All natural
  • Sustainable
  • Low sodium

Chilled ready meals taking off

Ready meals have traditionally been much more popular in Europe and other parts of the world than in the United States, but that’s changing as demand for convenience grows. According to Grand View Research, which segmented the ready meals market into ethnic, dried, chilled, frozen, and canned categories, chilled ready meals are primed to grow the fastest.

The challenges

Consumers want RTE foods to be healthy and high-quality

As we mentioned above, consumers want RTE food products to be just as healthy and high-quality as fresh foods. That means additive-free and processed using familiar methods, while also preserving color, nutrient content, and other quality characteristics.

The FMI report notes that “unhealthy substitutes and low quality and taste along with an increasing shift towards a healthier lifestyle is likely to hinder market growth in the coming years.” The flip side is that processors that do provide healthy, high-quality RTE foods will have a significant advantage.

Food safety is becoming more complex

RTE foods have always posed unique food safety challenges. With the proliferation of new products and new product types (along with the FDA’s shift to whole genome sequencing), these challenges are becoming more complex.

Here are some recent resources addressing food safety issues in RTE foods:

Thermal processing techniques including pre- and post-pasteurization can significantly reduce the food safety risks associated with RTE foods. Learn more about our solutions and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need any help.

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