An Authored article by Sheetal Bhalerao, Chairperson and Managing Director, Wardwizard Foods and Beverages Ltd
The Ready-to-Eat (RTE) industry has significantly transformed over the past few years. The industry has evolved from a niche market to a mainstream one, with an increasing number of consumers opting for convenience foods over traditional home-cooked meals. The RTE industry, which includes frozen, shelf-stable, and pre-cooked foods, is driven by consumer patterns and lifestyle changes. The RTE industry has come a long way since the introduction of canned goods in the early 19th century. Initially, canned foods were used to feed the army during wars, but they soon became popular among civilians. The RTE industry continued to grow over the years, with the introduction of frozen foods in the 1950s and microwaveable meals in the 1980s.
Today, the RTE industry is worth billions of dollars and is expected to grow steadily in the coming years. The industry is driven by changing consumer patterns, busy lifestyles, increasing working women, and the need for convenience.
Busy lifestyles: With the hectic pace of modern life, many consumers are looking for quick and easy meal solutions. The RTE industry provides a convenient solution for those who need more time or energy to cook meals from scratch. Ready-to-eat meals can be quickly heated in a microwave or oven and are ready to eat in minutes. This convenience especially appeals to those with busy work schedules or families to care for.
An increasing number of working women: Women increasingly enter the workforce and have less time to cook meals. Ready-to-eat meals are convenient for working women who want to provide their families with a home-cooked meal without spending hours in the kitchen.
The need for convenience: Consumers increasingly seek comfort in all aspects of their lives, including food choices. Ready-to-eat meals provide a convenient alternative to traditional home-cooked meals. They require little preparation and can be easily stored in the freezer or pantry.
The increasing demand for nutritious food options drives the RTE industry. Many RTE products are now marketed as healthy and organic, appealing to consumers who are conscious about their health and the environment. This trend has introduced a wide range of RTE products, including gluten-free, vegan, and low-carb options.
Another factor driving the RTE industry is the increasing popularity of international cuisine. Consumers are now more adventurous with their food choices and are willing to try new and exotic flavors. The RTE industry has responded by introducing various international cuisines, including Indian, Mexican, Thai, and Chinese.
The RTE industry has also benefited from advances in technology. Introducing new packaging materials and processing techniques has increased shelf life and improved quality. This has allowed RTE products to be transported over long distances and stored for extended periods without compromising quality.
Despite the growth of the RTE industry, some challenges need to be addressed. One of the main challenges is the perception that RTE products are unhealthy and of low quality. This perception has been fueled by using preservatives and additives in some RTE products. However, many RTE products are now made without preservatives and are marketed as healthy and organic.
Another challenge facing the RTE industry is the need for innovation. With an increasing number of players in the market, there is a need for RTE companies to differentiate themselves from competitors by introducing new and innovative products. This can be achieved by investing in research and development and collaborating with suppliers and retailers.
In conclusion, the Ready-to-Eat industry is driven by changing consumer patterns and lifestyles. With the increasing demand for convenience, healthy and nutritious food options, and international cuisine, the RTE industry is expected to grow in the coming years. However, RTE companies must address the challenges of perception and innovation to remain competitive in the market.