Slimming World has piled on the pounds – £23.9m to be exact, the greatest gain of any ready meal brand in the past year

ready meal

Slimming World has piled on the pounds - £23.9m to be exact, the greatest gain of any ready meal brand in the past year.

Its success seems counterintuitive. The general trend in food & drink is away from diet products manufactured to be ‘better for you’ (see WeightWatchers’ £3.6m loss) and towards premium brands that use cues relating to provenance and natural ingredients (see Charlie Bigham’s £15m growth).

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But Slimming World’s positioning is worlds apart from the no-frills diet offerings of old. This is real food from a wide range of cuisines (the lineup includes Spanish Paella, Chicken Tikka and Thai Green Curry) and, crucially, it fetches nearly double the market average.

“If Slimming World were stripped out, the market would be in significant decline,” says Iceland head of buying Bev Mitchell. “It’s positioned to offer convenient solutions to eating healthily and/or staying on track with weight loss rather than choosing a less healthy ready meal or ordering a takeaway.”

There’s a similar trend in ambient ready meals, where many big brands are losing share to smaller premium players with products that are positioned as healthier. An example is Symington’s Naked Noodles, marketed as low fat and high protein, and available in a range spanning Vietnamese, Thai and other Far Eastern cuisines. It’s up 136.4% to £5.1m. Another example is Japanese, Malaysian and Thai inspired instant noodle brand Kabuto, up 26.2% to £3.8m. Both carry a significant premium over the sector average.

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“With the strong trends towards healthy eating, ready meals can’t stand still,” says Crispin Busk, founder of Kabuto. “Quick and convenient products and the popularity of Asian food are helping us grow.”

In chilled, growth is coming from grab & go type products such as Rustlers (up £9.9m thanks partly to US barbecue inspired NPD) and homecooked-style dishes. “Shoppers continue to be happy to pay a bit more for high quality dishes to serve at home with minimal fuss and we are very happy to be catering for this,” says the eponymous Charlie Bigham.

But it’s not all about going posh. Pot Noodle volumes are up 8% after a 6.2% price fall.

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