Is healthy convenience food an oxymoron?


For the last 50 years, grocers have been helping Canadians get out of the kitchen. They’ve offered frozen entrees, deli-made meals, and even meal replacement bars and shakes. All with a goal of convenience and saving consumers valuable time cooking.

But all of this convenience has led to a Canadian diet filled with processed, high-sodium foods with lengthy ingredient lists most people cannot pronounce. Chronic disease and obesity are skyrocketing and these processed foods are the No. 1 culprit.

Canadians are now re-thinking these convenience foods and are demanding healthier options—but that doesn’t mean they have more time to cook.

Instead consumers are searching for simple ingredients that can be quickly turned into a healthy meal.

Fresh cut produce is the best example of this. The fastest growing sector of the produce industry, pre-washed and fresh cut vegetables and fruit allow consumers to pick a healthy ingredient and turn it into a meal without having to spend the time washing, peeling and chopping. They just toss it in a bowl or a pan and a meal is on its way.

Consumers are willing to pay more to save time, especially if they feel confident they are purchasing a healthy food. And retailers should feel proud about providing this service to their customers—cabbage is still a fibre and nutrient-rich vegetable even if it’s pre-washed and shredded.

Another growing category is pre-marinated meats, poultry and fish. These value-added items provide a convenient way for someone to ‘cook’ at home and get a meal on the table in 20 minutes.

It is key to consider the ingredients in the marinades though—consumers are looking for simple ingredient lists of foods they could have in their own kitchen and are also conscious about the amount of sodium in products like these.

With this category of convenience foods changing so rapidly, retailers need to meet the needs of consumers and provide healthy, ready to cook ingredients that can make a meal quickly.

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