The growth of the Ready to Cook meal market in UK supermarkets could offer a £7.2 million opportunity for the lamb industry. That’s the main conclusion of research undertaken by Welsh red meat levy board Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), in conjunction with retail market specialists Kantar Worldpanel.
As part of its ongoing promotional campaigns for PGI Welsh Lamb, HCC works with all supermarket chains who stock the product, including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, J. Sainsbury, M&S, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose, as well as independent retailers.
In 2017, this work will include a new focus on making the most of the growing convenience sector, which research suggests is crucial for attracting younger customers who have little time to prepare evening meals.
Recent times have witnessed a remarkable growth in convenience meals, driven overwhelmingly by the ‘Ready to Cook’ segment: portions of fresh meat or fish in an oven-ready foil tray with added-value extras such as sauces and herbs. These types of meals have enjoyed 29% year on year growth.
HCC has met with many UK retailers and processors since the New Year, to present its research and outline the opportunities that investment in new products within this sector could bring.
“Successfully growing a younger market for lamb offers a challenge, but also a great opportunity,” says HCC’s Market Development Executive Sue Franklin. “We’re working with Kantar Worldpanel to understand the rapidly changing market, and discussing with supermarkets to ensure that high-quality PGI Welsh Lamb is available in the sectors which look set to grow in the coming years.
She added: “At the moment, chicken in particular is leading the way in the growth of Ready to Cook meals, which are popular among younger consumers who are pushed for time. People are opting for choices such as breast fillets in a foil tray with butter and herbs, or a sweet chilli sauce. They’re willing to pay more for convenience – £5.98 more per kilo for Ready to Cook as opposed to a fresh primary cut.
“While lamb represents 5.5% of ready meals, it accounts for only 1.1% of these new type of Ready to Cook products,” explained Sue Franklin. “Lamb dishes, with Indian and Italian flavour accompaniments which are popular among the younger demographics, could work really well in this sector, and would represent a £7.2 million opportunity for the lamb industry.”