Business Wire India: The pursuit of convenience and time saving cooking methods has taken center stage for Indians. According to the latest research from Mintel, for 44%* Indians, one of the top reasons to use ready meals during the Covid-19 outbreak was that it was quicker than preparing food from scratch.
In fact, 39 out of 100 people (39%) use ready meals as an emergency meal solution. The research highlights that over the next 12 months close to a third of Indians (31%) plan to buy more products that speed up meal preparation. Indians are interested in eating healthily now, more than ever.
Seventy-four percent of food/drink shoppers agree that there isn’t enough variety of healthy prepared food options and 34% Indian consumers have indicated that they are more likely to buy RTE/RTC meals that are labelled as low/reduced salt.
Rushikesh Aravkar, Associate Director, Food and Drink, Mintel Consumer Reports South APAC said, “Cooking meals from scratch at home has been a norm in India. However, the outbreak of the pandemic has forced locked-down consumers to cook more often while managing work and home. Ready meal brands have the opportunity to leverage stay-at-home consumers’ greater tendency towards cooking at home with “cheat” cooking solutions. With focus on convenience brands can establish a foothold among consumers and show relevance.
“Brands can offer different levels of convenience, from shelf-stable heat-and-eat meals that are ready in three minutes to cooking pastes, mixes and meal kits that aim to bridge the gap between fully prepared meals and cooking from scratch. Brands can drive relevance among time-pressed consumers by reducing meal prep times.”
With increased consumer interest in eating healthily, the time is ripe for brands to offer nutrition and functional benefits to drive relevance. Brands can include superfoods, traditional grains, and vegetables in ready meals to boost their healthfulness. Highlighting the nutritional positives of ready meals will give its health image a much-needed boost.
When it comes to frozen foods, more than one fourth (26%) of Indian consumers associate frozen foods with being unhealthy. In contrast, more than one third Indians (32%) claim to have increased their consumption of frozen vegetarian snacks and more than one in four (26%) claim to have increased their consumption of frozen non-vegetarian snacks during the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, according to Mintel Global New Product Database (GNPD) only four out of 100 launches (4%) in the ready meals space between March 2017 and Feb 2021 have been in the frozen category.
Mintel research highlights that 34% Indian consumers buy ready meals as an alternative to having a takeaway or dining out. For more than two in five Indians (42%) ready meals are an opportunity to try new cuisines and for over two fifths (44%) Indians one of the top reasons for using ready meals during COVID-19 outbreak was that it helped in making specialty dishes from other regions.
Rushikesh Aravkar, Associate Director, Food and Drink, Mintel Consumer Reports South APAC said, “Frozen foods are closely associated with being unhealthy in India. There is a need to educate Indian consumers about frozen processing to build trust. Brands can communicate how being freshly frozen removes the need for preservatives. There is opportunity for brands to innovate and position frozen foods as fresh, better-for-you, convenient and affordable center-of-plate options.
To tackle the absence of a strong and dependable cold chain system, brands can adopt direct-to-consumer models by setting up exclusive frozen food stores, offering home delivery services, door-to-door cart services, and WhatsApp order booking.”
With dining out curbed, the ready meals category found increased relevance as a tasty treat during the COVID-19 lockdown. Brands can position ready meals as a route to enjoy restaurant-style food while enjoying convenience, hygiene and safety, ingredient control and cost-effectiveness.
During and post pandemic when consumers will work more at home and prioritise price, brands can highlight premium ready meals as budget-friendly alternatives to dining out / takeaway. Regional Indian cuisine is unique and complex. Brands can step in with a diverse range of regional delicacies as well as world cuisines, along with recipes that convey a comfort appeal.
Note: * 2,942 internet users aged 18-65+ who have consumed ready meals during COVID-19 outbreak, Jan 2021