Plant based ready meals soar in popularity
Plant based ready meals are making it easier than ever for people to cut the amount of meat they eat through various healthy, convenient options.
Research from Mintel suggests that more than three-quarters of all UK adults each ready meals, with 30% enjoying chilled ready meals at least on a weekly basis.
The improving accessibility of plant-based ready meals is a significant factor in their increasing popularity, with the research finding that the range of plant-based meals has increased by 50% since 2018. The report found that four major supermarkets in the UK have increased their plant-based range by between 60-175%, with almost 20% of all ready meals being plant-based or vegetarian. The number is expected to rise as sales of vegan ready meals increasing year on year, compared to the overall market.
Plant based ready meal product innovation
The research highlights that innovative product development is vital to appeal to a broader audience. This includes offering a range of meat alternatives and dairy-free options such as those including nuts, grains, and pulses. Replicating the characteristics of animal products brings challenges. To meet consumer demand and facilitate uptake of plant based ready meals, manufacturers have focused on creating products complete with textures synonymous with traditional meat and dairy products.
Innovation is not just limited to replicating the texture of meat, dairy or eggs. Plant based ready meals can also introduce consumers to new tastes and textures that they don't expect from vegan products. For example, the market for coconut as a mainstream ingredient is growing because of its versatility, taste and texture. Coconut is becoming an increasingly popular plant-based protein option for manufacturers, particularly within frozen desserts such as ice cream and sorbet.
Other plant based ready meals are embracing the trend towards ethnic cuisine by including spices and herbs to create new flavours and aromas, without the need for meat or animal-based ingredients. This is reflected in the variety of available flavours, with dishes such as plant-based Thai green curry, Japanese yakisoba, and Mexican chilli con carne.
Incorporating plant based protein into vegan ready meals is becoming an increasingly important ingredient focus for food manufacturers. An increasing number of manufacturers look to produce nutritionally dense, high-protein foods that are affordable and satisfying to meet consumer demand. For example, pea protein has become popular because it is versatile and more cost-effective than other protein boost options. Pea proteins can be used across all categories, from sauces and ready meals to bread and beverages.
Plant based ready meal ideas include:
The plant based ready meal and alternative food category is growing rapidly as more consumers look for flexitarian options that are easily accessible and provide healthy meat alternatives. For more on this topic and to discuss how we can help you in sourcing and developing new products or ingredients, please get in touch with our experts today.