The hot snack section is experiencing a bit of a rejuvenation with exciting newcomers entering the arena. Far from just being about pot noodles, jacket potatoes and soups, more innovative ideas, including microwaveable baguettes and dim sum, have been cropping up.
However, the category still offers plenty of scope for growth, says Deborah Carter, creative head of innovation at brand agency Dragon.
"There is good growth in microwaveable ideas, including sandwiches, filled potatoes, burgers and soups, but there is room for more because access to a microwave is probably still limited for a lot of people at lunchtime. As microwaves become more accessible, this is an area that is likely to expand."
In an effort to build on the popularity of microwaveable snacks, Eatwell recently claimed a UK first by adding a range a microwaveable baquettes to its Feasters microwaveable sandwiches and burgers. Available in steak & onion, ham & cheese, and chicken tikka fillings, it is a totally new concept for the UK, according to the company.
"While microwaveable food-to-go is still experiencing a high level of growth, we are conscious that innovation is a key factor in expanding this category," says Paul Ferry, group marketing manager. "The market for fresh microwaveable snacks is worth around £40m and we are confident that microwaveable baguettes will offer choice and value to consumers as well as giving retailers the opportunity to extend their chilled snack offering."
Burger brand Rustlers adds that retailers may be missing a trick by not positioning hot snacks within chiller cabinets at the front of store, which contain similar lunchtime items.
"These cabinets typically contain cold snacks, which can limit consumer choice, and it then makes it more difficult if they want something more substantial because it will be located in a different area of the store," says senior brand manager Mike Lorimer.
The company is currently trialling its products within the chiller cabinets at the front of the store in a number of retailers.
Also keen to tap into the hot snacking market, Taiko Foods recently launched a new product under its Zao brand - Steam Revolution Dim Sum, which uses a revolutionary pop-up device that allows the steam to escape gradually so flavour and texture are retained.
The newcomer, which can be steamed conventionally or in a microwave, consists of four flavours and is available exclusively at 43 Waitrose stores across the country.n