Older Europeans choose ease of ready made meals

July 14, 2005, as reported by just-food.com: Frozen dinners, according to new research findings, are not necessarily the food of choice of single twenty-somethings as once thought but are instead a growing meal option among their grandparents.

In 2004, seniors (55+) accounted for 26% of the value of the region's €11.1bn (US$13.4bn) ready made meal market, according to a new report by independent market analyst Datamonitor. "An increasing number of seniors in Europe live alone, as such the idea of cooking from scratch for one is generally unappealing" said Daniel Bone, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor.

The report also cites a later retirement age with a trend towards phased retirement and a desire for more leisure as reasons why older European are seeking ready-made meals.

Younger buyers, those in the 25-34 age category, and mid-lifers (35-44) are generally thought of as the groups most likely to spend on ready meals, however, they only accounted for 19% and 22% of total respectively.

Datamonitor’s consumer graphics database reveals that French seniors are Europe’s biggest spenders on ready meals (€847million), followed by the British (€778 million), Germans (€677 million) and Swedes (€220 million). Dutch seniors spent the least (€130 million) among those surveyed.

When it comes to positioning time saving meal solutions manufacturers must be sensitive to an accentuated level of cooking pride. "Manufacturers need to be aware that they must offer the older consumer a sense of pride in feeling there was some skill in preparing the meal", said Bone.

The sensory benefits of prepared meals also play an important part in appealing to older consumers who are more likely to judge a ready meal against more authentic meals prepared from scratch.

In the 3 biggest ready meal markets of France, UK and Germany urban consumption accounts for 80%, 92% and 91% of market values respectively. “In the same three countries male consumption accounts for 57% of market value suggesting that males are slightly more in need of a little help in the kitchen," says Bone.

As for future developments Datamonitor believes that despite frozen meals dominating the market in every country but the UK, consumption of chilled meals will grow the fastest. "Chilled meals have grown in popularity as they are perceived to have improved sensory benefits, use better quality and fresher ingredients and contain fewer additives than frozen meals", said Bone.

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