The rise of ready made meals

When it comes to eating on the run, consumers today are spoilt for choice. Once limited options have broadened to include all tastes and nutritional considerations and now cater for all day parts.

Breakfast through late night snacks, eating on the go has never been a more satisfying experience. And the evolution is bringing in a new wave of consumers into the category, who are prepared to pay premium for products which meet their need for convenience and taste. 

According to Statistica, revenue in the convenience food segment is worth an estimated AU$4.9 million in 2020. According to their figures, the average per capita consumption is 18.2kg per person and per person revenue is $194, while the average price per unit is $10.68.

The Australasian Association of Convenience Store’s 2020 State of the Industry report, compiled by Convenience Measures Australia, puts it as the second fastest growing category in convenience and grew at 11.5 per cent last year.

Petrol and Convenience is an important channel for brands not just in terms of sales, but for engaging with consumers. For The Handmade Sandwich Company the channel is a way to link with consumers seeking a satisfying meal without sacrificing time, says General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Sally Brown.

“The Handmade Food Co consumer is typically ‘out and about’ looking for a premium quality lunch and/or snack with punchy flavours.”

“There are two types of consumers, those that have time to sit down in a café and relax and others that are on the go. Our range caterers to both of these occasions, with the consumers experience always top of mind when we develop products,” Ms Brown said.

The brand services both metro and regional areas nationally, ensuring through a strong network of major distributors that regional sites also have the opportunity to stock a variety of products, which gives the brand an edge.

Another distinction is the brand’s gluten free range, introduced to reflect the increasing awareness of Coeliac disease and people choosing to eschew gluten for lifestyle reasons.

However their strongest performing lines are more traditional offers.

“Within the P&C channel the classic flavours are still the top sellers. These include the classic Everyday Café Ham, Cheese & Pickle, Chicken, Cheese & Mayonnaise and Roast Beef, Cheese & Relish Sandwiches. Not only are they great flavours but the sandwich range also has user-friendly packaging that makes it easy to eat on the go. P&C is also strong in our Everyday Café Toastie lines.”

Traditional flavours are also the strongest sellers for Mrs Mac’s range of pastries, with pies and rolls driving the majority of volume and its core line of Famous Beef, Steak & Cheese and Beef, Cheese & Bacon flavours consistently big sellers.  

However the brand has also been at the forefront of consumer trends with its NPD. This has been seen with its new Plant Based range, developed to entice a new health-conscious consumer base into the category, said Brand Manager Sam Tomeo. 

“Mrs Mac’s is always mindful of continuously evolving our offer to align with emerging trends, consumer expectation and enabling our retailers to build value and entice new customers to the category,” Mr Tomeo said.

“The new Plant Based range has been developed to capitalise on the growing trend of consumers reducing meat in their diets. Research shows one in three Australians are actively reducing meat consumption and Mrs Mac’s has responded by launching an innovative range to excite this consumer not engaged within category.

“We are aiming to attract new customers who will get exactly what they want: a tasty and meaningful plant based pie and roll with exciting and delicious flavours.”

Consumer expectations in the category have also evolved, Mr Tomeo said, with a growing demand for snacking options and a preference towards clean products. Mrs Mac’s is addressing this, he said, through their soon to launch Special Bath Range, a premium line of pies and rolls with gourmet flavours that are free of artificial colours or flavours.

This is in line with the brand’s typical consumer base in P&C, which tends to be a mostly younger demographic, who are seeking products that serve the need for both convenience and ‘better-for-you’ options.

Patties Foods is another company focussing their NPD on delivering convenient meal options catering to a variety of dietary requirements in the grab-n-go sector, without compromising on taste.

“We offer a delicious variety of plant-based and meat free options across our branded portfolio, including Ruffie Rustic Foods, Four’N Twenty, Patties and Herbert Adams, to cater for vegetarians, flexitarians and in some cases even vegans. This includes our first-ever Four’N Twenty Meat Free pie, which has been a great success. Australia is changing, and we’re listening!,” said General Manager of Marketing and Innovation, Anand Surujpal. 

“We are committed to evolving and growing our range to ensure we are keeping up with social shifts and providing options for all Australians. We will continue to offer a range that meets consumer needs and keeps our categories and products interesting.”

Patties has also been a driver of growing the range of breakfast offers in P&C, such as their recently launched Herbert Adams breakfast range.

“Breakfast and the morning rush are key opportunities for driving growth, with 50 per cent of customers agreeing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Surujpal said.

“A recent P&C consumer study also identified a new opportunity for on-the-go food, including food for now and food for later. Food for later speaks to a new audience, with consumers craving restaurant- quality, ready-made meals that are packed with fresh ingredients you can see and taste which they can buy now and eat later.”

Patties is servicing this need through its Ruffie Rustic Foods range. However, its strongest performers continue to be its Four’N Twenty range.

“Four’N Twenty is the branded market leader for hot, on-the-go savoury food within the convenience sector. Our well-loved products draw people into stores.”

“The Four’N Twenty King-Size Sausage Roll remains the number one branded product in hot on-the-go food category. Another top seller is the Four’N Twenty Traveller, with the Traveller format seeing a +40 per cent increase in sales year on year.”

“We are anticipating that Ruffie Rustic Foods will become one of our best- selling brands. This innovative new brand produces delicious, ready-made gourmet meals in the freezer category, standing out from other options when it comes to enjoying restaurant quality meals at home.”

Patties said their consumer insights had shown a higher demand for frozen and on-the-go products during the pandemic and were working to develop products to meet these needs.

“We’re in unprecedented times, so monitoring insights during the changing climate is key to responding to consumer needs.”

It’s a trend ready made meals brand Youfoodz has also noted since the onset of the pandemic, said Head of Retail Mathew Devine.

“What COVID-19 has shown us, with petrol visits and volumes well down, is that getting the shop offer right is the key to driving foot-traffic, basket spend and loyalty. Consumers now expect a strong food offering today not only on their commute, but also in their suburb.” 

Aimed at the time poor and health conscious consumer, Youfoodz has carved out a niche in P&C and their core ready made meals are consistent strong performers, servicing dual needs of nutrition and convenience.

“Consumers on the go are looking for healthy convenience, like the mid-week, female commuter, looking for a portion controlled, clean meal for lunch. As a leader in ready meals, the channel looks to us to innovate. We have increased category value recently by launching a Large/High Protein range, targeting the high value tradie shopper.”

Mr Devine said consumers were seeking variety in the category that fit their active lifestyles. And they were prepared to pay a premium for it.

“Our recent innovation in these has shown us that with the right offer we can grow category penetration and address more shopper missions. In October we are launching 16 Breakfast lines, across sub- segments of meals, smoothies, snacks, chia and granola. And in time for summer we are launching a line of chilled, eat now Power Bowls. Both category innovations are likely to be add incremental value to the category.” 

This article was written by Naomi White for the Oct/Nov issue of C&I Retailing magazine, which can be read in full here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top