What do Charlie Bigham’s, La Famiglia Rana and Itsu have in common? They’ve all capitalised on the demand for premium, convenient world cuisine in the wake of covid.
The first is up by a staggering £21.8m, while the second has made nearly £5m in its first full year, and the final has grown value sales of its frozen lines by more than a third [NielsenIQ 52 w/e 11 September 2022].
The trio are the vanguard of brands propping up the chilled ready meals category. Over the past year, branded volumes have grown almost a fifth, with value up 24.4% to £234m [Kantar 52 w/e 4 September 2022].
“This growth has been driven predominantly by new shoppers, which has contributed £22.6m,” points out Kantar analyst Oliver Akiwumi.
By contrast, the larger own label ready meals sector has lost shoppers in the past 12 months, resulting in a 5.3% slump in volumes.
It suggests brands are better at catering to the quest to find a speedy hit of world cuisine that’s worth splashing the cash.
In theory, chilled ready meals should be in the perfect place to offer exotic tastes in the wake of the pandemic.
After all, sales of cooking sauces have declined 4.3% to £724.2m – with volumes down 10.1% – as normal life has resumed and shoppers have been less willing to spend time cooking [Kantar].
“People have returned to their busy schedules, and the need is for quicker and more convenient meal options,” says Akiwumi.
Yet volumes are down by 3.3% across the chilled ready meals category. While value is up 6.3% to £1.83bn, that’s entirely due to an average price rise of 10.2%.
Part of this is the result of rising inflation across grocery. More interestingly, though, it’s also been driven by shoppers buying more premium, branded propositions.
Branded ready meals come at an average of £3.78 – 29% more expensive than own label versions, which are £2.94. And many of the fastest-growing brands are even pricier.
“There’s a shift towards British people being willing to try different world products”
A Charlie Bigham’s lasagne for