United Kingdom ready meals market: £5 billion industry in 2012

Press Release   •   Feb 19, 2013 17:22 GMT

The top six companies leading sales in the United Kingdom ready meals market during 2012 are all retailers of private label brands. Private label brands in total are expected to constitute 74% of ready meals value sales. Leading the pack is Tesco Plc, with over 21% of value sales in 2012. Private label leads in both chilled and frozen ready meals, offering low cost products, but also increasing ranges across various price platforms and, as a result, appealing to different types of consumers.

The strongest growth has come from chilled ready meals and chilled pizza, both of which have taken sizeable share from their frozen equivalents. The general perception is that frozen foods are less healthy, and consumers are increasingly willing to pay slightly more for fresher products if they provide health benefit. It is surprising but this trend has bucked even the economic downturn. This has been assisted by a whole swathe of new product developments on the part of the supermarkets in reaction to this trend. Most of the products are not specifically health products but they are marketed in such a way as to emphasise the freshness of the product. For example, in chilled pizza, all the supermarkets make great play of the freshness of ingredients and their source in Italy, whilst in fact many of these pizzas are far less healthy than their equivalents in frozen ready meals.

Ready meals is forecast to grow at a rate of 4% per annum in value terms over the forecast period, standing apart from the forecasts for rival categories such as chilled prepared food and frozen food. Ready meals has seen a large amount of new product development, and it feels as though there is much more to come with many companies expanding lines in this area. The move towards freshness is going to continue to benefit ready meals, where products such as chilled pizza, chilled ready meals and prepared salads are likely to continue to attract more people away from their frozen equivalents owing to a more positive health image attached to chilled ready meals.

Key Headlines

- Ready meals grows by 5% in value terms and 3% in volume terms to reach a total of nearly £5 billion in 2012
- Ready meals has defied the general industry trend through effective pricing and marketing as consumers demand greater convenience
- Chilled ready meals sees the highest growth, up 7% in value terms and 5% in volume terms
- The unit price rises to £5.22 per kilogram, up by 8p in 2012
- Tesco continues to hold a huge lead in ready meals with a 21% value share
- The sector is forecast to grow by 4% per annum in both volume and value terms over the forecast period

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