ANUFOOD India 2023

Pressed for time? Say HELLO to Ready-to-Eat and Ready-to-Cook foods

Photo - stockking on Freepik

Author- Insha Naureen

Consumers nowadays are busy juggling their professional and personal lives. Hectic working hours leave less time to prepare elaborate meals. This is giving rise to the adoption of convenience foods like Ready-To-Eat (RTE) and Ready-To-Cook (RTC) foods worldwide. Socio-economic changes and urbanization also drive the demand for foods requiring less cooking time. The target consumers for RTE and RTC products are primarily teenagers, working professionals, bachelors, and children. These foods fit the bill perfectly for this demographic when it comes to a quick meal.

Ready-to-eat food is pre-cooked, pre-cleaned, and meant for direct consumption without any need for further processing steps to reduce or eliminate microorganisms, while ready-to-cook food can be prepared with minimal extra effort and is growing among the working women population. RTE foods include meals, snacks, pizza, pasta, lasagne, sandwiches, spring rolls, bread, and more. RTC foods include noodles, instant-flavored oats, frozen French fries, dosa/ idli batter, vegetable gravy mix, rajma masala mix, and chicken masala gravy mix, among others.

Key players in the RTE market in India are Bikanervala Foods, Darshan Foods, Gits Food Products, Haldiram Foods International, Heritage Foods, ITC, McCain Foods, McCormick and Company, MTR Foods, and Tyson Foods, among others.

For RTC foods, the leading companies in India include Bambino Agro Industries, Gits Food Products, Hindustan Unilever, iD Fresh Food (India), IndianFarm Foods, ITC, Kohinoor Foods, MTR Foods, Nestle SA, REGAL KITCHEN FOODS and more.

What makes convenience food dominate the market shelves?

RTE and RTC foods are the closest alternative to regular homemade meals and are refrigerated easily, require minimal heating and offer convenience to consumers. Below are some benefits that can be availed by including them in our lives.

  • Availability

Ready-to-eat foods are becoming increasingly available with advances in food innovations depending on demand. Companies offer a wide range of varieties to    choose from, catering to all palates.

  • Maintaining a work-life balance

Since these foods reduce the time spent in the kitchen, consumers get additional time for relaxing, socializing, and hosting events. This helps reduce stress and allows consumers to enjoy a good quality of life.

  • Safety

Food manufacturers use technology to ensure products are released into the market after passing all quality checks. Emphasis is laid on employees following all good handling practices (GHPs)while preparing them.

  • Time-saving

In households where all the occupants are employed, more time is spent at work and traveling to and from work. These consumers have been found to purchase more convenience foods than those where not all house occupants are employed. Heat-and-eat convenience foods are popular in today’s fast-paced world.

  • Financial savings

Ready-to-cook foods tend to be competitively priced as the menu options are limited. Brands compete in terms of variety and prices to grab a larger market share, leading to reduced product prices. Additionally, with packed convenience foods, there is less food wastage, less purchase of ingredients, and leftovers can be refrigerated for later consumption.

Consumer Acceptance of Ready-to-Eat Foods

Consumer acceptance of convenience foods varies across the world. Their decision to purchase such foods depends on prices, food environment, financial resources, and time constraints. Adequate research has been carried out to understand this.

  • In tier 1 cities of India, these foods are in great demand due to their time-saving benefits.
  • Research has shown that the knowledge of the cooking method and awareness of a particular product increases its acceptability by consumers in Pakistan.
  • Products that are certified influence consumers as they trust them to be of good quality.
  • Taste and nutrition are prime factors that consumers consider while buying convenience foods.
  • While selecting the brand, consumers look for taste, availability, advertisements, and schemes.
  • In Mexico, a surge in demand for ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat products with improved taste and quality is observed. This is due to the rising awareness and acceptance of convenient meat products.
  • Across the world, labor camps, hospitals, military, universities, schools, and airline industries are adopting ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods at a steady pace.

Future insights

The popularity of RTE and RTC foods rests on factors like time-saving, family life, and domestic effort. Additionally, aspects such as low interest in cooking, disliking cooking, and growth in the number of nuclear families are pushing the convenience food category forward.

The rise of startups in the category offering healthy convenience foods using millet and plant-based ingredients is promising and the subject of research worldwide. Most of the developed countries in the world have already adapted to convenience foods in a big way and developing countries are slowly following suit. Moving forward, the category is bound to impact supermarket shopping and food retailing significantly.

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