The pre-prepared range continues to grow, and chilled salads now move around 60,000 million euros
What is the outlook for the sector of pre-prepared and ready-cooked ranges? Is there still any margin for growth? It seems that all this bodes well for this segment. This may be deduced from the companies in the sector consulted by Fruit Today, and from the statements made by international experts in highly relevant forums, such as the AECOC Fruit and Vegetable Conference.
Frozen vegetables and sautés are on the rise, as well as chilled salads (currently with a market penetration of 80%). According to data from the consultancy firm Iri, the boom in this type of salads has been such that it has meant a 45% growth in the total value of fresh vegetables and salads sector. And Nielsen states that chilled salads are already moving around 60,000 million euros and are growing by 12% in volume.
A large part of this positive evolution lies in the consumer trend towards products that are: healthier (14.1% of all packaged products are sold under the Health & Wellness concept, and its growth is above the average of the other products, with +6% in volume and +6% in value); ready to eat (the percentage of the total of Major Consumption Goods has already reached 7.7% according to Nielsen’s Retailers Panel); and that they are adapted to the new consumption habits. In short, consumers are looking to be able to eat products at home or on the go, more conveniently and easily. And the fact is, according to Cindy van Rijswick, Senior Industry Analyst Fresh Produce at Rabobank, “food is increasingly turning into a service.” The composition of households, with a growing number of single person homes (one in every four) and families that are tending to have fewer members also have an influence on this entire process of change. To all of this is added the fact that the ‘Millennials’ are distancing themselves from the traditional consumer concept, and there is an increase in consumers who try new things more often (55%) and more trend seekers (41%).
Within this context, where buying a whole lettuce is on the way to becoming an exception, the processed food sector has known how to get on the innovation bandwagon to bring added value to the excellent Spanish raw materials. Pedro José Domínguez Jiménez, Sales Manager at Nielsen Spain, stated at the AECOC Fruit and Vegetable Conference that “chilled food is continually bringing out innovations and consumers are rewarding it for this,” because consumers are capable of “spending a great deal on premium products, whilst making savings on others.”
The main pitfalls
Experts foresee that in the future over 70% of sales will be made in convenience stores that are less than 800 metres from the home. Quite a challenge that makes produce turnover more complicated, one of the major problems faced by the pre-prepared food sector. Additionally, we are seeing a growing concern about sustainability, with movements such as ‘Strip the fruit’ which must seek out a point of balance with the greater demand for prepared foods. The traditional packaging companies are beginning to look for solutions (for example, Infia is already using R-PET exclusively), and others are introducing very interesting new developments, such as Laser Food, but its application, valid for fresh produce, cannot be applied to a prepared dish. The use of cardboard and other sustainable materials is also growing, but “plastic will not disappear completely from the supermarket shelves”, Cindy van Rijswick declares. What is clear is that in order to seek out solutions to the challenges before us, communication between the different parts of the chain will continue to be essential.