Ready meals deliver boost to red meat sector


Sales of red meat preprepared meals have grown 2.4 per cent 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 preprepared meal industry was worth £1.1 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.

AHDB Retail Insight Manager Grace Randall said: “At the start of the pandemic, we saw a rise in homemade meals cooked from scratch as people had more time at home. 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.”

Preprepared 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 per cent in the 52 weeks to February 2022, preprepared meals were up 3.2 per cent, according to Kantar, with ready meals driving most of the growth – up 4.3 per cent.

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

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

The growth of preprepared 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.

Grace added: “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.

“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.”