Work, family, sport, leisure… our lives are so busy that being able to optimise our time and resources is a sure sign of success. Shopping, cooking and eating take up a lot of valuable time, and this has led to the appearance of trends such as convenience food, which aims to reduce the amount of time spent on buying and preparing food, while ensuring our diet remains healthy and natural.
So, what is convenience food and how it is changing the food industry? Let’s take a look.
CONVENIENCE FOOD: WHAT IS IT AND WHO IS IT AIMED AT?
Convenience food is any food that we buy prepared and packaged, ready to eat with minimum preparation, or none at all. These are practical, easy solutions that have evolved enormously and ensure there is no need to compromise on taste or quality when grabbing a bite to eat.
Although these solutions are more in demand from younger generations, the new trends in food packaging demonstrate that older people are also showing increasing concern for their health, in terms of both diet and physical activity, making them potential consumers in this market.
So, what do different generations want from convenience foods?
- Generation Z, or Gen Z: these young people born well into the 21st century value product quality above price, and also do more shopping in person than Millennials. However, they are demanding, and want food to go that has attractive packaging and is easy to transport.
- Generation Y, or Millennials: born in the last two decades of the 20th century, these consumers are very concerned about the environmental impact of packaging, as well as whether it can be reused. They are also the perfect consumers of convenience food, as they want healthy foods that can be eaten on the go.
- Seniors: although these people are older and generally prefer traditional dishes, they are also increasingly seeking meals that require minimal preparation, for example, simple reheating, or just mixing pre-portioned ingredients. They also prefer small packets that are easy to open.
ADAPTING FORMATS AND MATERIALS FOR CONVENIENCE FOOD
There are several different packaging solutions for convenience food, depending on the formats and materials, as well as the target consumers.
- Food-to-go: for products that can be eaten on-the-go, as they require no extra preparation, the perfect solution is a flexible plastic. This type of packaging includes stand-up pouches with caps, and easy-open pre-cut pouches, both of which are offered by SP Group. However, great advances have been made in rigid and semi-rigid packaging, meaning materials such as APET PE is now commonly used for bowls with lids for ready-to-eat salads.
- Prepared food in microwaveable packaging: SP Group’s latest revolution in microwaveable packaging, is the stand-up pouch made of high-barrier complexes. Other options include our valve ®, which allows the food to be cooked in the microwave without opening the bag or pouch. All our technological advances do, of course, comply with our objective to reduce shopping and cooking times with quick and easy solutions.
- Food kits: this is a popular alternative to ready-meals and take-ways. These kits include the exact ingredients needed to prepare a meal. They also come with clear and concise instructions to ensure they are quick and simple to prepare.
GROWING CONVENIENCE-FOOD MARKET IN EUROPE
According to a study by the statistics platform Statista, the revenue from convenience food in Europe is currently 43 million euros, with the market expected to grow 2.9% per year until 2021. The figures also show that the average consumption per person in 2018 will be 14.3 kilograms. In Spain this is a relatively new market, but it is increasing exponentially and the volume of business is approximately 2.6 million euros.
Regarding points of sale, although this type of product can be bought in supermarkets or other food outlets, in the USA and northern Europe, there are specialist shops which are generally small 24-hour stores that adapt to the tastes of consumers in their catchment areas. These convenience stores are beginning to appear in Spain.
Designed to help consumers prepare and cook healthy meals with fresh ingredients, using products presented in attractive packaging that is easy to open and use, while also ensuring the products are easy to transport, convenience food is the trend that is revolutionising the food industry.