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Shelf Life Savviness’ Will Aid Chilled Ready-To-Eat Foods Waste Reduction
Sophisticated shelf life strategies could help accelerate industry-wide efforts to reduce unnecessary food waste, according to Leatherhead Food Research.
A report produced by WRAP (Waste Resources & Action Programme) suggests that UK households waste around 19% of the food they bring into the home. Some of this wastage could be avoided with more precise shelf life determination.
In a bid to help the industry enhance shelf life accuracy, Leatherhead has launched a free White Paper with advice on how to navigate this evolving field: Shelf Life Determination: Best Practice Guidance.
Methods for validating shelf life have made significant progress in the past decade, enabling traditional practices such as short dating to work in conjunction with robust scientific trials. These include real-time testing where finished products undergo microbiological screening during storage, and accelerated testing which assesses non-microbiological changes under controlled conditions.
Combining these tests with practical methods to extend shelf life can play a significant role in food waste reduction. Real-time testing has shown that advancements such as Modified Atmosphere Packaging can delay the onset of spoilage in some products that have poor microbial stability. This ensures food stays fresher and good to eat for longer.
Leatherhead’s White Paper, available to download online, summarises real-time, advanced and challenge testing techniques. It also covers wider factors such as ingredient quality and underlines the importance of keeping up-to-date with innovations in shelf life extension.
“Shelf life determination is a complex field, but our White Paper acts as a stepping stone for chilled ready-to-eat food manufacturers who want to become more shelf life savvy,” says Isabel Campelos, Senior Technical Advisor (Food Safety), Leatherhead Food Research. “Providing a more accurate indication of when food is past its best creates a win-win situation, reducing waste and saving customers money.”
Low Consumer Trust Influencing Buyer Behaviour in Recovering UK Ready Meals Market
According to Ready Meals, a new Market Update from business intelligence provider Key Note, the value of the UK ready meals market decreased by 1% in 2013. While this was the first instance of market decline within the 5-year review period covered by this report, it nevertheless represents a remarkable sales recovery following the exposure of the horsemeat scandal in early 2013. The frozen ready meals sector was the worst affected by the scandal, with volume and value sales declining significantly; several products were found to contain horsemeat, compounding existing consumer fears regarding the quality of frozen food. The chilled sector, on the other hand, consolidated its dominance, exhibiting modest growth in 2013. Yet this was primarily attributable to inflation and not substantial enough to prevent overall market decline in 2013. While the effect of horsegate on ready meal sales proved to be relatively short term, owing to the robustness of the consumer base and the aggressively low pricing strategies employed by manufacturers following the crisis, its effect on consumer confidence is ongoing. On one level this is exemplified by the growing demand for provenance in ready meal products; the scandal highlighted the lack of transparency in international supply chains, thereby bolstering demand for locally sourced ingredients. On another level however, low levels of consumer trust are driving sales of premium ready meals, within the context of gradually improving economic conditions. Although own-label products remain dominant in this market, emerging premium brands such as Cook and Charlie Bigham’s highlight the growing demand for high quality. As a result, retailers are increasingly investing in premium new product developments (NPDs) as a means of expanding their own-label ranges. The long-term impact on consumer trust has been fuelled by regular media attention to food industry issues relating to hygiene, fraud and labelling. For instance, while healthy ready meals are becoming increasingly popular, recent revelations regarding the widespread substitution of fat with sugar in low-fat meals may affect buyer behaviour given the media’s recent focus on the potential dangers of excessive sugar consumption. Moreover, the continued introduction of traffic-light labelling is changing the way in which consumers think about health with regard to ready meals. Issues such as this are therefore increasingly influencing buyer behaviour in this market. Nevertheless, despite dynamic trends following horsegate the UK ready meals market remains robust. The average working week is getting longer and single-person households are becoming more common, fuelling the demand for convenient mealtime solutions. This demand for convenience is being further exploited by manufacturers’ prioritisation of bringing NPDs to market. Over the next 5 years, Key Note therefore expects the market to return to growth; although this will continue to be driven by the chilled ready meals sector, the sales value of frozen products will also grow on a modest year-on-year basis.
Grocery Market Contracts In Historic Dip Into Decline
The latest grocery share figures from Kantar Worldpanel for the 12 weeks ending 9 November 2014, show that for the first time since Kantar Worldpanel records began in 1994 the British grocery market has fallen into decline, with sales down 0.2% compared with this time last year.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel explains: “The declining grocery market will be of concern to retailers as they gear up for the key Christmas trading season. The fight for a bigger share of sales has ignited a price war which means an average basket of everyday goods such as milk, bread and vegetables now costs 0.4% less than it did this time last year. This is bad news for retailers, but good news for shoppers with price deflation forecast to continue well into 2015.”
Aldi continues to benefit from the disruption within the grocery market. Its sales are 25.5% higher than last year and the retailer now has a record high market share of 4.9%. Lidl has also performed strongly with a 16.8% sales increase bringing its market share to 3.5%. At the other end of the market, Waitrose has grown sales by 5.6% taking share to 5.1%.
The major supermarkets have all had a difficult period, hit by both the flow of shoppers toward the discounters and reduced revenues as they competitively cut prices.
Asda has recorded the best performance among the big four. Its sales have fallen in line with the overall market and share has held steady at 17.2%. Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have both recorded a decline in share compared with last year with sales down 2.5% and 3.3% respectively. Tesco’s sales are down by 3.7% although it is worth noting that the rate at which it is losing market share has slowed.