Freshness, sustainability top of mind when it comes to ready-to-eat meals

Consumers look for high quality food, sustainable packaging, according to report from Good Natured
good natured ready to eat

Consumers continue to flock to ready-to-eat-meals, driving companies to focus on freshness and sustainable packaging.

These are two of the take-aways from the recent Ready-to-Eat Report released today by Vancouver-based Good Natured Product, a producer of plant-based foods.

The report, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults, aged 18-64 in July of this year, finds that consumers are looking for healthier and fresher options when it comes to prepared and ready-to-eat meals, and want to see more sustainable packaging options.

One might have expected with the increasing cost of living and food prices, and pocketbooks being pinched by inflation, that many would turn away from packaged, prepared meals. The opposite, in fact, is happening. Despite persistent inflation, consumers are choosing ready-to-eat meals over groceries with nearly one-in-four saying that shopping for ready-to-eat meals was less expensive than buying groceries. 

Some 72% said that they are consistently buying or increasing their consumption of ready-to-eat meals, meal kits, and takeout food since the start of the year, with only one-in-five say that they decreased their weekly purchases of prepared foods.

One reason for taking ready-to-eat meals is the convenience of them (70%). May say such meals allow them to spend more time with friends and family, or to spend doing something fun. Some 21% say cost is another reason to choose this option followed by the smaller, more reasonable portion sizes that many such meals provide them (19%).

“Convenience eating has always been a trend,” said Paul Antoniadis, CEO of good natured, “but what’s changed is how people are consuming takeout meals. What was once grabbing a pizza and bringing it home, has turned into salad bars and grab-and-go lunches from the grocery store, pickup and takeout from your favourite restaurants, and quick service meal spots where you can dine-in or takeaway.”

Convenience, however, does not trump freshness or the aesthetic appeal of the foods. According to Antoniadis, “the key factors consumers keep in mind when shopping for food are visibility and freshness.” The Ready-to-Eat Report finds consumers place a high priority on food freshness, with 73% saying it is their top concern when it comes to buying ready-to-eat meals.

That concern for freshness is the major factor in consumers also placing a priority on high-quality packaging, packaging that both showcases the foods and ensures safe handling and protection of what is inside. Some 86% say they want to see high clarity food packaging and would be likely to buy a ready-to-eat product if they can see what it looks like first. This has also driven a greater consumer awareness and demand for packaging to be sustainable. When asked, 77% say they want eco-friendly packaging, and that the packaging should be easily recyclable.

This article first appeared on Convenience Store News Canada

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