Home cooking? What’s that?
If you’re the type who’d rather eat out than to stay at home and cook dinner, this might be your initial reaction to home cooking. Or maybe you see cooking at home as a luxury you can't afford. Lately, with busy lifestyles and hectic schedules increasing more and more, many people are struggling to find the time to cook the meals they want to eat, instead choosing more convenient (and often less healthy) options or eating the same quick-assemble dinners every night. This is where the ready meal market has really come into its own.
What started in the UK has now become a hot trend here in Australia. And guess what? It’s growing faster than you could’ve imagined. According to IBISWorld, the fresh ready-meal market here in Australia has experienced an annual growth rate of roughly 3.6% over the last five years and is now reportedly a $600 million industry. The researcher said this is probably due to rising health consciousness and the demands of time-poor consumers or those who are living alone.
What are ready meals, anyway?
These are meals that are sold in a pre-cooked form, either chilled or frozen. Australia is a home to several companies who are producing prepared meals. You may have heard of McCain Foods (Australia), Simplot Australia, and Patties Foods (9%), who are all leading players in the ready-meals sector. But as technology advances and consumers continue to look for more convenience, smaller local businesses that offer online ready meals have also emerged and tapped into the trend. And taken it beyond frozen pizzas and pastas to a whole new range for every taste - from calorie controlled or paleo to internationally inspired cuisine for the more adventurous foodie.
THE RISE OF ONLINE READY-MEALS IN AUSTRALIA
The ready-meal sector is evolving in the digital age. From simply providing ready-to-heat meals to busy people, it has now expanded to include an online/web-based category that promises to deliver healthier or more adventurous alternatives to the pre-prepared meals we're used to seeing in the freezer section. These dishes are made by professional chefs and for a number of the new players in the market, prepared using the finest and local produce.
Locally, lots of startups are now trying to get their share of this growing market.
Let’s begin with FivePointFour. This Queensland startup prides itself on being one of the fastest growing pre-prepared meal companies in Australia. They provide ready made breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals and deliver them straight to their customers’ doors so they can completely skip the hassles of cooking at home, and make sure they are eating a healthy diet.
FivePointFour’s meals are 100% healthy and contain NO processed ingredients. Creative director, Tamara Loehr, even said, “fundamentally we’re a wellness company, not a food manufacturer who jumped in because it’s a growing industry. For us, the main thing is that all of our various meals are made from premium ingredients and have the right macronutrients.”
Also from Queensland is YouFoodz. What makes this ready-to-eat meal delivery service stand out is that it doesn’t offer frozen meals; it offers fresh meals that are clean, delicious, and specially prepared by experienced chefs. They deliver yummy dishes, from Teriyaki Chicken & Tokyo Potatoes and Superfood Wrap to Clean Balsamic Beef and Sticky Teriyaki Beef with Stir Fry. They are also now stocked on the shelves of selected metro supermarkets, so customers can grab a meal on the go.
As of now, YouFoodz delivers to Gold Coast, Sydney Metro, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne Metro, Sunshine Coast, and Canberra.
Then we have Gourmet Dinner Service. This company isn’t a newcomer in the market - it has been providing high quality “ready-to-heat” meals since 1994. Just like FivePointFour, this New South Wales business also offers healthy dishes - they even have meals that cater for special dietary requirements, like vegetarian and gluten-free. The only difference is, its meals are frozen when delivered to you. Rest assured though that the foods are prepared by professional chefs using only quality ingredients.
The supermarkets are seeing the benefit too. As well as stocking read made grab-and-go meals from celebrity chefs and trainers like Pete Evans, Kylie Kwong and Michelle Bridges, both Coles and Woolworths have launched their own branded pre prepared meals, which means supermarkets now have huge sections of read meals for consumers to grab and go - there's clearly a lot of demand!
MEAL KITS ARE BECOMING A THING, TOO!
On the other hand, there are also other startups that offer “meal kits”, also known as subscription food boxes. These target those who enjoy the convenience of home delivery but still want to prepare their own dinner.
According to Aussie Farmers Direct chief merchant Duncan Kirk, meal kits are the fastest-growing category in the grocery e-commerce market. “We expect it to attract a diverse range of new customers that include time-poor families and career-focused couples,” he said. This type of meals is also targeting the millennial consumers who need more “confidence in the kitchen to start cooking from scratch”.
One of the largest Australian companies providing meal kits is Hello Fresh. Originally from the U.K, this firm packages up pre-measured ingredients and delivers them straight to customers along with their bespoke recipes made by chefs. Now people can still enjoy the fun of cooking without going through the hassles of grocery shopping, can eliminate food waste, can learn a new repoirtoire of recipes, constantly have new meals to try and can prepare a meal faster as the food is already portioned out ready to go.
Similar to Hello Fresh is Marley Spoon, a German home cooking delivery startup that landed in Australia in 2015. It delivers fresh ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes directly to your door so you can enjoy cooking your dinner without the need to go to the grocery store. The ingredients are also pre-measured so there’s no waste.
Brisbane startup Tastebox is another company offering meal kits. Their unique angle is creating healthy recipes that can be prepared in four steps and in less than 30 minutes. Founder Josh Dawson said many people like the concept of Tastebox. His main customers are busy professionals, including couples and families. “The common denominator is people who are time-poor but still like to cook for themselves, which I think is a crucial part of our offering,” Dawson says.
Like the grab-and-go meals, Woolworths is also jumping on this trend, offering meal kits for two for $25 that can be purchased off the shelf in select metro stores.
With more and more businesses getting on the ready-meal bandwagon, it’s hard to deny that online prepared meals are truly trending here in Australia and there is a big market opportunity. With so many new players in the market, it's important to stay competitive. If you're a food entrepreneur, thinking about getting into read meals, here are our top bits of advice to carve out your niche.
HOW TO INCORPORATE READY MEALS INTO YOUR PRODUCT RANGE
If you have decided to hop on the online prepared meals train, there are three things you must keep in mind to be able to become successful in this growing sector.
Keep your ordering easy and your delivery fast. The number 1 thing consumers are after is convenience. Remember that your target customers will be those who are busy with their jobs and those who are living alone with no traditional cooking skills; meaning, it’s important that you offer them fast and convenient options. Make meal selection on your website or mobile app simple for them and ensure the meals will arrive straight to their doorsteps at their chosen delivery dates.
Make your meals healthy. Australians are now switching to healthier lifestyles and are on the lookout for healthy options. And guess what? They are also willing to spend cash just to satisfy their cravings for guilt-free food. One of the biggest things that attracts health conscious consumers to these meals rather than cooking is the ability to make sure you are tracking accurate nutritional information - from calories to how much protein is in a meal. Tap into this trend by making your ready-meals healthy. Much better if you can offer meal sets that are suitable for people who are vegans, vegetarians, or for those who are taking special diets like Keto and Paleo and you can offer a complete meal plan to keep your customers sticking to their health goals.
Offer “gourmet” meals. Move away from the typical pasta and lasagna. While consumers love the convenience brought to them by home delivery, they also want to eat something high-quality and companies offering a variety, not the same meals over and over, are doing really well in this market. The best move is to offer ready-meals that aren’t often available in nearby convenience stores and supermarkets. Just take a look at YouFoodz. They deliver Chicken Katsu Curry, Chunky Pepper Steak Pie, and even Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks.
Fresh-ready meals and “meal kits” may still be in their infancy here in Australia, but it’s pretty clear that the trend is growing at a fast pace. By promising to offer chef-prepared dishes made from the finest, locally-produced ingredients that can be delivered directly to your home or office, there’s no doubt that this ready-meal fad is going to stick around. If you're thinking about jumping in - now is the time!
Want more stories like this? Go check out the “Industry Insights” section on our blog.