In 2005, the ready meals market across Europe was estimated at $29.2 billion. By 2009, that figure is expected to grow to approximately $32.6 billion, according to a report by London-based Business Insights Ltd.
Not only are consumers asking for more frozen food options, they also are demanding more conveniences - including home-cooked flavors and high levels of food safety - from these convenience foods.
While industry attempts to satisfy these demands, large retailers are scrutinizing the bottom line and pressuring processors to reduce production costs wherever possible, often by increasing capacity (throughput per footprint) and energy efficiency and by reducing lifecycle costs.
The study also cites an increased demand for precooked, frozen products such as chicken tenders and beef patties in the United States. This trend will continue as new, flavor-driven products like marinated chicken wings become more popular, demanding greater attention to taste preservation.
Frozen, partially prepared products that provide retailers with an opportunity to add value and economically expand product offerings are also in demand. Globally, the best example of this is the European trend toward “fresh baked” products such as croissants and breads that are prepared, pre-proofed and frozen upstream in an industrial setting. As these products appear in North America, they bring with them a greater demand for freezers with wider belt capacities and greater reliability.
All these trends are coming together and fueling the demand on today’s food processors to increase and improve convenience food production, which, in turn, is putting pressure on freezer manufacturers to develop freezers that can handle the load while reducing operating and maintenance costs.