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The Rise of Ready to Eat
Cooked, ready-to-eat ‘anything and everything’ is on the rise. This is not a new concept in the global and Australian marketplace, but consumer acceptability and desirability is.
Elevation in product quality and a change in consumer lifestyles have significantly influenced this trend, and Australian retailers and manufacturers are working together to capitalise on it.
The investment in setting up cooked, ready-to-eat operations is substantial, from both a financial and time-commitment perspective.
There are rigorous food safety measures in set-up, maintenance, cleaning and product testing.
Further complexity is added when the product can be consumed once the pack is opened, as opposed to being heated first. Having the right systems in place is essential for the sustainable supply of a ready-to-eat product offering. In addition to this, manufacturers are also looking at how they can differentiate from the current market offering.
Cooked, ready-to-eat products in supermarkets are growing in proliferation, encompassing products cooked in-store and those cooked and packed by the manufacturer then delivered to the store.
The sweet spot of the ready-to-eat segment is the opportunity to develop products and evolve brands to deliver an offering that adds genuine value for consumers.
Canned tuna is a good example of a successful cooked, ready-to-eat category, with products ready to be eaten on their own or as a sandwich filling, or mixed with salad or pasta. The category is also good at innovating – through flavours, pack sizes and product cuts.
Other good ready-to-eat examples include sliced meats and prepared meals – some of which are heated before being consumed, while others can be consumed without heating.
With ready to eat already a very active segment, there has never been a time when differentiation has been so important.
Everyone is fighting for the consumer dollar. Our thinking around who our competition is has evolved. The lines are blurred. Long gone are the days of your competitor being the company down the road that also produces a similar style of product to yours.
When looking to differentiate, you may look to global and Australian markets for inspiration, particularly to those companies that are doing ready to eat well. Limitations in existing product offerings may also be considered, along with the opportunity branding can play in gaining quick traction.
Other questions to be considered when differentiating include:
- Are there claims to be made about the ingredients (or the reduction of ingredients)?
- Can the product range cover a widespread audience, not just tapping into the one consumer type?
- Is there scope to align the location and product offering – for example, in the case of ready to eat, can shopping the product also be convenient?
- Is the communication compelling enough to cut through, and will it encourage the consumer to trial and then return?
The ready-to-eat category presents new avenues. Despite poultry being the most consumed meat in Australia, there are an array of opportunities that can be explored that will continue to drive further growth. In the case of chicken, once believed to be a commodity market, a cooked, ready-to-eat offering that delivers on key consumer trends of health and convenience makes chicken new again.
The latest entrant, Steggles, recently launched the Just Eat It range, which consists of three cooked, ready-to-eat products: two chicken, one turkey.
You will also find a Lilydale Free Range cooked, ready-to-eat product that appeals to the premium shopper.
All products are nationally available in Woolworths.
By Celeste Moroney, Baiada
On Poultry Marketing & Innovation.
As appeared in Retail World February 9, 2015