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April 21, 2005

USA: Ready meals: Americans gobble up convenient options (COMMENT)

As North American consumers continue to embrace convenient meal solutions, manufacturers must provide more sophisticated offerings and target specific demographics. With Datamonitor's ConsumerGraphics database emphasising the importance of ready meals to older consumers, high-income groups and singletons in the region, industry players must continue to enhance the sensory appeal of their offerings.

As North American consumers continue to embrace convenient meal solutions, manufacturers must provide more sophisticated offerings and target specific demographics. With Datamonitor’s ConsumerGraphics database emphasising the importance of ready meals to older consumers, high-income groups and singletons in the region, industry players must continue to enhance the sensory appeal of their offerings.

The market for ready meals in North America is worth a substantial US$16.1bn, driven largely by a highly developed US market. Canadian per capita spend is only 22% of that in the US, which, in 2004 amounted to US$53.6 and is expected to increase to US$55.4 by 2008.

In both countries, older age groups dominate ready meal consumption although important subtleties exist. In Canada, 35 to 44-year-olds stand out as the most significant age demographic accounting for 24% of the total market in consumption terms. This age group is the second most important in the US market with those aged 55 and over accounting for the highest proportion of the US$15.7bn market.

Given that ready meals demand is significantly influenced by convenience needs it is unsurprising that consumption is largely an urban phenomenon with urbanites placing extra importance on time saving products. In Canada, urban consumers account for 85% of the total market value, compared with 78% in the US.

Singletons in particular are an important urban consumer group that will influence future market growth. With singles already accounting for 37% and 27% of the Canadian and the US markets respectively in 2004, their importance will only increase as the number of unmarried consumers continues to rise.

Another growth opportunity is through the targeting of the ‘convenience gourmet’ consumer, with higher quality meal solutions. Such consumers (who are heavily comprised of older consumers and singletons) do not want to cook from scratch, yet are at the forefront of growing demand for meals with fresh ingredients. Importantly, they are likely to be the US citizens earning over US$33,200 who account for 34% of the US market, and the Canadians earning over US$30,400 who account for 44% of the Canadian market. Only by enhancing the sensory benefits of ready meal solutions will industry players in North America successfully target these consumer groups and facilitate future market growth.

(c) 2005 Datamonitor. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent. Datamonitor shall not be liable for errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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