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UK's £2 billion ready meal market slows

A new study has revealed a slowdown in the growth of the ready meal market which started even before the emergence of the horse meat scandal this year.


UK's £2 billion ready meal market slows

With sales of over £2 billion in 2012, the market for ready meals has been a high growth category driven by consumers’ appetite for convenience and value for money.

However, recent analysis of in-market measurement data by Symphony IRI Group has shown that value sales growth of the total ready meal market dipped to around 1% in November and December 2012 and began to fall below 2012 levels in January 2013.  In the two weeks ending 23 February, year-on-year growth dropped by as much as 5% driven by a 13% reduction in the frozen sector and a 3% fall  chilled sector largely as a result of the horse meat scandal.

The number of packs of chilled ready meals sold was down by an average of 2% in the four weeks to 23 February 2013. However, the biggest decline was seen in frozen ready meals, down by 14% in packs sold for the week ended 23 February compared to the same week in 2012.  

Symphony IRI Group has recorded a decline in the sales of frozen ready meals in the UK over the last three years – down from 295 million sold in 2010 to just under 271 million in 2012.

Tim Eales director of strategic insight at Symphony IRI group explained: "We were seeing signs of a cold wind blowing through the frozen ready meal market even before the horse meat scandal as pressure on cash-strapped consumers’ increases.

"In 2012 shoppers bought no more packaged groceries than in 2011 but had to pay close to £2 billion more for them. So now, even some of the fastest growing categories are struggling and the horse meat scandal has added to this demise. History suggests, however, that our memories are short and so it should not take long for the effects of the latest revelations to fade away."

Symphony IRI Group’s  latest survey of shoppers across Europe conducted at the end of 2012, found that 65% shoppers in the UK wanted to buy less ready-made food, thereby highlighting the fact that consumers have been paying attention to where their food comes from for some time. 


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