The ready-to-eat meals market is forecasted to reach US$99.1 billion globally by 2021. In 2016, the market was valued at US$83.4 billion, representing a CAGR of 3.5 percent.
By 2021, China is forecasted to be one of the fastest growing markets, with a CAGR of 9.2 percent. Asia Pacific is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.5 percent during the forecast period.
Prepared foods can be dried, canned, boxed chilled or frozen. These foods require no preparation other than heating before being served. The most common covering type for this market is film. This category also includes pasta, rice, noodles, canned meat, and meat-substitute dishes.
The demand for convenient and ready-to-eat products has risen as more women enter the workforce and people lead increasingly busy lives. Consumers are seeking products that save time and effort.
Changing eating patterns also have boosted sales as fewer people make time to cook food from scratch. In developing countries such as India and China, the younger population not only have lesser time for meals, but many lack cooking skills.
A challenge the market faces is the perception that frozen and chilled categories are unhealthy because they contain few vegetables and have preservatives. To overcome this, manufacturers are launching products with healthier recipes, featuring natural and organic ingredients. Labels are also used to inform consumers when certain products are “free from” undesired ingredients.
The largest distribution channels for ready-to-eat meals are hypermarkets and supermarkets, holding a 68 percent market share globally, and convenience stores at 19.7 percent. The next largest channels are health and beauty stores, department stores, variety stores and general merchandise retailers.