The popularity of ready-to-cook meals is steadily increasing, according to experts participating at the 2024 edition of Gulfood. “In the last five years or so, we have seen a steady increase in ready-to-cook meals,” said Ahmed Yahya, President, Water and Food at Agthia food group. “The trend was always there but as everyone becomes busier, the popularity of such meals are growing leaps and bounds.”

Gulfood, one of the largest food and beverage exhibitions in the world, kicked off in Dubai on Monday bringing together over 5,500 exhibitors from more than 190 countries. The exhibition, which will run till Friday, February 23, is an opportunity for F&B industry insiders to network, find business opportunities and explore innovations.

“The work that our mothers and grandmothers used to put into creating a meal is being reduced because there are so many other things to do,” said Yahya. “Today, with phones, social media and so many other activities, there is a lot of time pressure on people. This led to them looking for meal solutions and snacking solutions. And that is where ready to cook meals and snacks come in.”

Time crunch

His comments were echoed by Ashvin Subramanyam, from food company Orkla. “As lives get busier and with most households having both partners working, needs get more concentrated around solving for time,” he said. “Convenience keeps getting more important. The ultimate peak [of convenience] is ready-to-eat meals.”

He said that the shift has been gradual. “About five or six years ago, that portfolio of our company was very insignificant,” he said. “Now, we are starting to see early double digit growth. The growth trajectory is going to get higher. It is a sign of increasing prosperity. In the next three or four years, we are expecting around 10 per cent of our business to come from the ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat meals.”

However, there are some challenges ahead for companies. According to Yahya, one such difficulty is the taste factor. “Even when you are opting for such meals, you want the taste to mirror that of the recipes that were made at home from scratch,” he said. “So people are looking for authentic taste. That is where we try to play to our strength. In our range of frozen tandoori naan, paratha (flatbreads) and other food items, our strategy has been to bring the taste to as authentic as possible.”

New line

Another organisation which is trying to cash in on the ready-to-cook meals trend is Emirates National Food Company. “We have recently launched a broasted chicken box which comes complete with marinated chicken, spices to coat the chicken in and the salad to serve with it,” said Ahmed Safaie, Sales Manager, Emirates National Food Co.

According to Ahmed, the product has seen a lot of success in a short time. “A lot of people want to experiment and try out new recipes for their families,” he said. “But to try and recreate a good broast chicken requires a lot of research and planning. Buying a ready to cook box like this saves a lot of time for them. It also gives them some control on how much oil to use when frying and using good quality ingredients.”


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