Publishing: 21 February

Advertising deadline: 6 February

Submissions deadline: 30 January

Please contact Amy North (

The Story

Have ready meals begun to turn a corner? The numbers from different data providers vary, but there are signs that the sector is finally starting to get over the 2013 horsemeat scandal that sent sales into freefall. A number of brands are in strong growth in this own label dominated category, as are the upper tier own label lines of some retailers. So who’s in growth? How? Who’s being left behind? Why? How can they turn things around?

Key themes:

Premium lines: Our analysis suggests that the average price of chilled ready meals has risen 4.5% in the past year. To what extent is this being driven by the development of premium branded and own label lines? Is this proof that the 2013 horsemeat scandal has served as a catalyst for players addressing deep rooted concerns and negative perceptions about the quality of ready meals?

TV dinners and alternatives: This feature will pay close attention to the formats proving most popular in ready meals at present. Does the traditional, microwaveable TV dinner hold the same sway it did in the past or is it being usurped by more premium, foil packed products designed to be heated in an oven? What about the just-add-water products developed by canned fish brands?

Microwaveable pot meals: One area that seems to be struggling is microwaveable pot meals, with the sector’s biggest brand, Innocent, having suffered a significant fall in sales over the past year. What’s going on? Has the market become overly reliant on deals to drive sales?

Innovation: This will be central to this feature. We will explore the latest innovations and the trends that have driven their development. A key question will be: what’s next for ready meals? We will profile four of the latest, most interesting new products in the sector in a separate innovations panel.

Own label: Own label is outperforming brands in this category. This feature will explore the key reasons why, paying particularly close attention to what individual retailers are doing to carve out greater share of the market for their own brands. How are brands competing?

World cuisines: This feature will also explore the types of cuisines that have proven most popular, and unpopular, over the past year and the reasons for this. For example, why are American ready meals proving so popular while other cuisines are going cold? Attention will be paid to the brands and retailers behind the cuisines’ performances.

Promotions and price: This feature will explore how the promotional strategies of retailers and brands have changed over the past year, particularly in light of the relative strength of own label. Attention will be paid to the promotional strategies of retailers and how this has affected average prices.

Key questions the feature is likely to address:

  • What consumer trends have impacted the category over the past year?
  • How have promotional strategies (both in terms of price and marketing) evolved?
  • How have individual retailers’ strategies impacted the market?
  • How has merchandising changed in the market?
  • What impact has own-label had on branded players?
  • What’s next for the category?