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The U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes, Volume 1 in the Series


Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

With convenience a top criterion driving consumer food choices, this new Packaged Facts report, The U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes, offers a unique perspective on two hot categories: prepared fresh foods, and meal components. The prepared fresh foods category consists of completely prepared ready-to-eat/ready-to-heat fresh foods (such as prepared entrees and side dishes sold in supermarket delis, as well as deli-style packaged cold cuts). The meal components category encompasses fresh and frozen groceries such as seasoned ready-to-cook meats and poultry, and bagged salads.

Using a new data-intensive, compact format, The U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes presents a pithy analysis of the market factors that continue to shape the market, including consumer trends, mergers and acquisitions, and new product developments. It also provides up-to-date competitive profiles of leading industry players (both marketers and retailers), plus a cutting-edge discussion of action points companies can utilize to benefit from the trends driving this market.

The U.S. Market for Convenience Food and Packaging, Volumes 1-3
The U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes is the first of a three-part series on the convenience foods market, which also covers Frozen Meals and Appetizers/Snacks (Volume 2, March 2004) and Packaging and Serving Size Trends (Volume 2, April 2004). An Executive Overview of all three volumes will be available to purchasers of the three-volume set upon publication of the final volume, providing a cross-comparison of opportunities and competition in these inter-related sectors of the convenience foods market.

Report Methodology
The information in The U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes is based on both primary and secondary research. Primary research involved on-site examination of the retail milieu, interviews with marketing, public relations and industry analysts within the convenience food market and consultants to the industry. Secondary research entailed data-gathering from relevant trade, business, and government sources, including company literature. Packaged Facts has derived mass merchandiser sales figures from Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) InfoScan sales-tracking data. Figures provided on national consumer advertising expenditures are based primarily on data (copyright 2002) compiled by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, the leading provider of strategic advertising and marketing communications intelligence. The analysis of consumer demographics derives from Simmons Market Research Bureau survey data for spring 2003. New product information is gathered via literature research, personal interviews and data compiled by ProductScan, a service of Marketing Intelligence Service Ltd.

This report looks at every segment of the convenience food market, examining trends for growth and projecting sales of products through 2008. It analyzes consumer demographics and attitudes and their current and projected impact on sales of convenience foods. It provides up-to-date competitive profiles of marketers of these foods - including a look at smaller, up-and-coming companies - and discusses the influence of demographic trends as a driver of retail trends. The series also spotlights new products and current distribution trends, and offers readers trends and marketing opportunities within the convenience food industry.

What You’ll Get in this Report
Using a new data-intensive, compact format, The U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes presents an incisive analysis of the market factors that continue to shape the market, including consumer trends, mergers and acquisitions, and new product developments. The three volumes also provide up-to-date competitive profiles of leading industry players, both marketers and retailers. New to the report is a cutting-edge discussion of action points companies can use to benefit from the trends driving this market.

Each volume in this series addresses the following segments:

  • The Market (including market size and composition, and projected market growth)
  • The Marketers (including share of market, where available)
  • Competitive Profiles of major marketers
  • Retail Strategies (including retail private label and deli foodservice)
  • The Consumer (an analysis of current Simmons Market Research Bureau data profiling consumer demographics)
  • Trends and Opportunities

You’ll also benefit from extensive data, presented in easy-to-read and practical charts, tables, and graphs.

Scroll to see a more detailed outline of the contents of this volume.

How You Will Benefit from this Report
If your company is already competing in the “ready meal” market, or is considering making the leap, you will find this series invaluable, as it provides a comprehensive package of information and insight not offered in any other single source. You will gain a thorough understanding of the current market for ready meals and meal components - fresh and frozen - as well as projected sales and trends through 2008. Contributing to that understanding will be a complete analysis of sales data from IRI and other published and trade sources, a detailed discussion of the consumer for ready meals based on Simmons data.

This report will help:

  • Marketing Managers identify market opportunities and develop targeted promotion plans for fresh and frozen ready meals.
  • Research and development professionals stay on top of competitor initiatives and explore demand for products in the ready meal arena.
  • Advertising agencies working with clients in food industry understand the product buyer to develop messages and images that compel consumers to purchase these products.
  • Business development executives understand the dynamics of the market and identify possible partnerships.
  • Information and research center librarians provide market researchers, brand and product managers and other colleagues with the vital information they need to do their jobs more effectively.


Chapter 1: Executive Summary

  • Scope and Methodology
  • Scope of Report
  • Exclusions
  • Report Methodology
  • Retail Sales Top $19.6 Billion in 2003
  • Table 1-1: U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes, 1999-2008 (retail sales in millions of dollars)
  • Market Composition
  • Many Factors Favor Market Growth
  • Major Marketers and Brands
  • Marketer and Brand Shares
  • The Competitive Situation
  • Only a Handful of Major Advertisers
  • Retail Trends
  • Overview of Consumer Purchasing

Chapter 2: The Market

  • Market Size and Growth
  • Market Definition: Ready Meals/Side Dishes and Prepared Meal Components
  • Exclusions
  • Methodology for Sales Estimates
  • Retail Sales Top $19.6 Billion in 2003
  • Ready Meals/Side Dishes Category Approaches $10.0 Billion
  • Figure 2-1: U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes, 1999-2003 (retail sales in millions of dollars)
  • Prepared Meal Components Category Nears $9.9 Billion
  • Table 2-1: U.S. Market for Ready Meals and Side Dishes, 1999-2003 (retail sales in millions of dollars)
  • Table 2-2: U.S. Retail Sales of Ready Meals & Side Dishes Category, 1999-2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 2-3: U.S. Retail Sales of Prepared Meal Components Category, 1999-2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Market Composition
  • Retail Sales by Product Category
  • Figure 2-2: Share of Ready Meals and Side Dishes Market by Category, 1999 vs. 2003 (percent)
  • Supermarkets the Dominant Retail Outlet
  • Figure 2-3: Share of Ready Meals and Side Dishes Market by Retail Channel, 2003 (percent)
  • Market Trends
  • Market Dynamics
  • Demographic Trends
  • Household Demographics: Less than 25% are Married with Children
  • Women’s Work
  • Parameters for Convenience
  • Healthier Eating Fueling Growth
  • Food Safety, No-Mess Cooking, Easy Clean-Up
  • Competition from the Fast-Food Industry
  • Competition from Across the Aisles
  • New Products and Technological Advances Fuel Growth
  • Aggressive Marketing
  • Figure 2-4: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Ready Meals and Side Dishes Market, 2003-2008 (in millions of dollars)
  • Projected Market Growth
  • Retail Sales Will Top $27.5 Billion by 2008
  • Table 2-4: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Ready Meals and Side Dishes Market, 2003-2008 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 2-5: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Ready Meals & Side Dishes Category, 2003-2008 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 2-6: Projected U.S. Retail Sales of Prepared Meal Components Category, 2003-2008 (in millions of dollars)

Chapter 3: The Competitive Situation

  • Marketers and Brands
  • Competitors Large and Small
  • Market Leaders
  • Consumer Packaged Goods Marketers
  • Meat Processors and Produce Growers/Distributors
  • Significant Niche Marketers
  • Some Items Retailed in Both Refrigerated and Frozen Formats
  • Table 3-1: Selected U.S. Marketers of Ready Meals and Side Dishes
  • Marketer and Brand Shares
  • Methodology
  • Dole, Fresh Express Control 74% of Fresh-Cut Salads Market
  • Five-Way Food Fight in Refrigerated Dinner Entrees
  • Oscar Mayer Lunchables Owns Refrigerated Lunch Kits Business
  • Refrigerated Salad/Coleslaw Dominated by Private Label
  • Packaged Fresh Spinach
  • Advanced Fresh Concepts, Northern Star Lead Refrigerated Side Dishes
  • Nestlé Leads Refrigerated Pastas
  • Refrigerated Appetizers/Snack Rolls
  • Refrigerated Breakfast Entrees
  • ConAgra’s Gilardi Dominates Refrigerated Pizza
  • Refrigerated Hand-Held Entrees
  • Table 3-2: Top Marketers of Fresh-Cut Salad by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 3-3: Top Marketers of Refrigerated Entrees by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 3-4: Top Marketers of Refrigerated Lunch Kits by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 3-5: Top Marketers of Refrigerated Salad/Coleslaw by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 3-6: Top Marketers of Packaged Fresh Spinach by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 3-7: Top Marketers of Refrigerated Side Dishes by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003
  • Table 3-8: Top Marketers of Refrigerated Pasta by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • Table 3-9: Top Marketers of Refrigerated Appetizers/Snacks by IRI-Tracked Sales and Shares, 2003 (in millions of dollars)
  • The Competitive Situation
  • Mergers and Acquisitions Reshape Market
  • Consolidating Brand Names
  • Ready Meals and Side Dishes Add Value and Brand Cachet to Commodity Products
  • Marketing Trends
  • Homestyle Foods
  • Ethnic and Regional Flavors
  • Package Sizes Accommodate Different Family Sizes, Channels
  • Some Marketers Focus on Non-Supermarket Channels
  • New Product Trends
  • Ready Meals & Side Dishes
  • Fully Prepared Quick-Heat Entrees
  • Refrigerated Dinner Kits
  • Jumping on the Deli Bandwagon
  • Lunch Kits Go Healthy
  • Refrigerated Pasta
  • Meal Components
  • Value-Added Meats, Poultry, and Seafood
  • Prepared Fresh Produce
  • Bagged Salads Go Upscale
  • Packaged Salads Get Even More Convenient
  • Value-Added Veggies
  • Fresh-Cut Fruits
  • Advertising and Promotion Trends
  • Only a Handful of Major Advertisers
  • Advertising Positioning
  • Retail and Internet Trends
  • Focus on Supermarkets
  • Supermarket Delis
  • Focus on Warehouse Clubs
  • Focus on Convenience Stores
  • Focus on Natural Food Stores
  • Focus on Vending Machines
  • Focus on Mass Merchandisers and Drugstores
  • Focus on the Web: E-Commerce

  • Chapter 4: Competitive Profiles
  • Competitive Profile: AFC (Advanced Fresh Concepts) Corp.
  • Corporate Background
  • Product Range
  • Competitive Profile: Chef Solutions, Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • Competitive Profile: Dole Food Co., Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • The Packaged Salads Leader
  • Competitive Profile: Foster Farms
  • Corporate Background
  • Convenience Products
  • Competitive Profile: Fresh Express Farms
  • Corporate Background
  • The Prepared Salads Leader
  • Competitive Profile: General Mills, Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • Lloyd’s Refrigerated Meats
  • Competitive Profile: Hormel Foods Corp.
  • Corporate Background
  • Beyond SPAM
  • Hormel Heat-and-Serve Entrees
  • America’s Largest Turkey Processor
  • Jennie-O So Easy Refrigerated Quick-Heat Entrees
  • Competitive Profile: Kraft Foods, Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • More than 50 Major U.S. Brands
  • Oscar Mayer Keeps Reinventing Itself
  • Lunchables a Continued Success
  • DiGiorno Refrigerated Pasta Sales Plunge as Market Chills
  • Trouble with Dinner Kits
  • Philadelphia Bagels and Cream Cheese
  • Competitive Profile: Monterey Pasta Company
  • Corporate Background
  • Product Lines
  • Acquisitions a Key Growth Strategy
  • Competitive Profile: Reser’s Fine Foods, Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • Product Lines
  • New Products and Acquisitions
  • Competitive Profile: Sara Lee Foods
  • Corporate Background
  • Jimmy Dean and Rudy’s Farm Sausage and Bacon
  • Hillshire Farm Deli Testing Recipe Ready Products
  • Sara Lee Rolling Out its Own Brand in Deli
  • Competitive Profile: Smithfield Foods, Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • Quick-Heat Meat Entrees Under Several Brands
  • New Ready-Meals Division Formed
  • Competitive Profile: Tyson Foods, Inc.
  • Corporate Background
  • More Than Just Chicken
  • Tyson Leverages Its Brand Name to Value-Added Beef and Pork

Chapter 5: The Consumer

  • Demographics
  • Note on Simmons Survey Data and Tables
  • Product Usage Rates
  • Purchasing Patterns
  • Age Patterns
  • Ethnicity a Strong Determinant
  • Regional Skew to the Midwest, Except for Refrigerated Pasta
  • Socioeconomic Levels Vary by Product and Brand
  • Larger Households More Likely to Use Ready Meals and Side Dishes
  • Table 5-1: Adult Purchasers of Ready Meals and Side Dishes, 2003 (% of U.S. households)
  • Table 5-2a: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Age Bracket of Purchaser, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-2b: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Age Bracket of Purchaser, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-2c: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Age Bracket of Purchaser, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-2d: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Age Bracket of Purchaser, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-3: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Ethnic Group, 2002 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-4: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Region, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-5: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Educational Attainment, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-6: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Employment Status, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-7a: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Household Income Bracket, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-7b: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Household Income Bracket, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-8: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Marital Status, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-9: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Household Size, 2003 (U.S. adults)
  • Table 5-10: Purchasing Indices for Ready Meals and Side Dishes: By Presence of Children by Age, 2003 (U.S. adults)

Chapter 6: Looking Ahead

  • Trends and Opportunities
  • Wanted: Food That’s Fast and Easy to Prepare
  • Reaching the Hispanic Consumer
  • Convenience + Health
  • Customized Convenience Foods
  • Appendix: Addresses of Selected Marketers

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