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Ready meal growth driven by need for convenience

Fiona O’Shaughnessy, PCF Business Development Manager

Ready meal growth driven by need for convenience.jpg

Image by: Bord Bia

As part of our category report series for the prepared consumer foods category, we reviewed the performance of the chilled ready meal category in the Irish market, and we asked the key question: Can the category continue to maintain the strong growth experienced in 2022?

This insightful article will explore the annual category data set from Kantar (52 w/e 14th May 2023) and understand this performance and the key drivers of growth. To understand the ‘why’ behind the category is equally as important. In order to assist the industry to make informed strategic decisions, Bord Bia supported the Kantar data with insight from Shopper Intelligence, and my colleague John Tobin will follow with an article regarding this dataset.

According to Kantar, total ready meals are delivering a growth of +19.1% in value, driven by new shoppers entering the category and a strong increase in price per pack +14.1%. This is an extraordinarily impressive performance, ahead of total grocery (+6%) and on top of extremely robust growth in 2022 (+25%). This is in contrast to the UK market; ready meals are in growth of +3.9% driven by price and frequency. However, it is worth noting, the UK is a very mature category with a penetration of 91%.

The penetration of the ready meal category has continued its growth sitting at 62.9% in the latest period. Private label still holds the top share in the category; however, brands are closing the gap in recent months. Over the last four years, branded ready meals have started to gain share and there is now only 7.4 percentage points behind private label. This is versus its largest gap in 2019 of over 50 percentage points between both segments. 

When we drill down and look at cuisine types, Italian and Traditional continue to be the two main cuisines. Italian cuisine has continued to grow in share over the last three years, with the opposite for Traditional. Traditional is the only cuisine not seeing double digit growth. Importantly Italian, Indian, and Oriental have driven the most new shoppers to the category. In contrast, price increases is the only metric that is driving growth for vegetarian ready meals, all other metrics are in decline.

Dunnes is the top performing retailer in terms of value and volume growth, however in share terms Tesco holds the lead. Brands with a health and fitness focus are leading the way in terms of growth and Fit Foods have moved into the number 1 branded position in value share. Nutri Quick and Pure Power Nutrition also delivered growth this year, reflecting the continued interesting in this trend in the category.

Irish consumers lead increasingly busy lives and brands in this category are responding to their increased demand for convenient, quick, easy-to-prepare meal solutions catering to modern lifestyles. This has been demonstrated with an extraordinarily robust performance in the Kantar category data for the year. My colleague John will now review the ‘why’ behind the numbers in the next insightful article in this series.

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Kantar. (2023b). Fresh Ready Meals Category Review . Kantar.