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Refrigerated Meats, Meals Watchwords: 'Convenient, Healthy'

Major trends in the category of branded refrigerated meals and meats products are centered on making products more convenient, healthier, and more creative or original in their approach to flavors and ingredients, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts.

Sales in the U.S. market for refrigerated meats and meals increased from $22 billion in 2009 to $25 billion in 2013, due in part to most Americans continuing to choose meat and meat-based products as their primary protein source, so finds the recently released Branded Refrigerated Meats and Meals: U.S. Market Trends report. Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts estimates that category sales will grow to $31 billion by 2018, spurred by food marketers' increased introduction of products that emphasize convenience, health and originality.

The convenience aspects of the new wave of refrigerated meats and meals rate high with younger consumers, who are especially keen on turnkey attributes due to their lack of cooking skills, as well as older consumers' penchant for ease of preparation and clean-up. Moreover, the quality of convenient refrigerated meats and meals has evolved as marketers have come to understand that the same consumers who require convenience are often those who strive to have more upscale products in their lives.

The health factor can refer to many aspects of a food product, but for refrigerated meals and meats it is often used to indicate that a product is from animals that have been raised under humane conditions and without the use of antibiotics or GMO ingredients in their feed. It can also be a reference to the use of leaner cuts.  Similarly, the idea of “safe” in the food and beverage industry can be considered a subset of healthy, notes Packaged Facts' Research Director David Sprinkle. “Some consumers are less concerned about getting products that improve their health but rather want to be sure the products they purchase won’t do them harm."

Creative/new refers to products that offer consumers something they haven’t had before or at least haven’t had in a particular combination of flavors or forms. More specifically, says Sprinkle, it may refer to an unusual cut of meat that comes from a selective cattle source, such as Kobe beef from wagyu cattle. But it can also mean using a more traditional cut of meat enhanced with ethnic flavorings, alcoholic beverages, or various smoke flavors in the creation of a refrigerated meal product. 


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