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Meal Mixes

A Brief Introduction
According recent market survey conducted consumers today do not have enough time available to deal with all the current responsibilities related to their daily lives. With increasingly busy schedules and changing priorities, it is not surprising that majority the consumers find that Meal Mixes as an easy
solution to the meal-time crunch.

Meal mixes that can be heated and served instantly have become the norm in a regular middle class kitchen, where earlier it took several hours to put meals together. This has created a surge in the availability of processed foods in markets, as manufacturers rush to cater to growing demand.

Definition of Meal Mixes
Meal Mixes can be defined as frozen, fresh, hot or cold fully prepared meals purchased in a store to be eaten elsewhere. They are not canned food, nor are they take-away or fast food meals.

Variously known as Home meal replacement (HMR), RTE or ready-to-eat, etc., these products are completely cocked food that can be eaten without further processing. This includes food that may be deep-frozen and thus needs to be heated before eating. These meal mixes are comprised of components that are freshly prepared or perceived to be freshly prepared away from home and are ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat. These are usually sold through supermarkets, convenience stores, limited service restaurants, and specialty markets and non-commercial food service outlets.

In restaurants, true ready to eat meals are usually the take out food items a consumer would order from the restaurant such as pizzas or complete entrees. In most cases, these are not fully packaged and may not even require reheating. RTE meals from groceries are usually the frozen food types of food.


Classification of Meal Mixes
The meal mixes can be segmented by the major meal types such as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Usually these ready-to-eat meals are one complete meal packaged in one container. In some cases, they may also be packaged by type of food or packaged as one item per package such as salad, soup, main course, entrée, etc.

The main meal for which meal mixes are purchased is dinner. Meal mixes are occasionally used for lunch and very rarely for breakfast. The main type of meal purchased was either the main course or an all-in-one meal. Supermarkets were the most popular sources of RTE meals.


Market Metrics
The biggest reason for buying Meal Mixes is the convenience offered. Almost 87% of consumers globally buy Meal Mixes for that reason. Some said that quite often buying a ready to eat meal was cheaper than preparing one by buying the original ingredients and processing them. Another reason cited by many consumers across different parts of the globe was not having enough time to prepare a full meal.

Consumers also demand freshness and quality in their foods. The growing popularity of organic produce is a testament to this. While the busy lives of the Indian consumer are unlikely to slow down anytime soon, this spells a huge market opportunity. The competition between speed and convenience, and taste and quality will continue to challenge manufacturers and retailers to offer new meal ideas to satisfy the sophisticated demands of the contemporary people.

Some Popular Meal Mixes
It has been found based on a survey of consumers' opinions, purchasing habits and consumption of ready-to-eat dishes, that the following Meal mixes are most popular across the globe. Apart from the
products based on rice, which are ready for consumption, after being heated, such as risotto, paella and the like; the following have proved to great favorites among consumers all over the world:-
  • Chicken a la king: is a classical dish characterised by a rich cream sauce with chicken, mushrooms, pimentos, green peppers and sometimes sherry. Creating this dish from scratch requires the use of a chicken stock, butter, flour, milk and cream to achieve the creamy sauce.
  • Beef Stroganoff: is a Russian dish which consists of strips of beef, onions, mushrooms and green pepper all sautéed in butter and combined with sour cream sauce.
  • Spaghetti Bolognaise: is a thick, full bodied meat sauce and is part of the staple diet in Bologna, Northern Italy. The sauce is a combination of ground beef, pancetta, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots and garlic. It is often enhanced with wine, milk or cream and seasonings and then served with spaghetti.
  • Basil Chicken Pan: Basil is a member of the mint family and is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. The Basil Chicken Pan combines this flavourful and aromatic herb with chicken and vegetables in a rich, creamy sauce.
  • Sweet & Sour Chicken: has a flavour that has achieved a balance between sweet and pungent. It is a flavour profile characteristic of Asian cuisine. To create sweet and sour dishes from scratch, one would typically have to use both vinegar and sugar in order to create a synergy between the two flavours.

Indian Market
According to a market analysis by the Tata Strategic Management Group, it is estimated that the meal-mixes food market in India will reach Rs 2,900 crore/US$ 727.09 million by 2015, with a penetration in 25 million households. The current meal-mixes' market is low, a little more than Rs 128 crore/$ 32.09 million, with the processed and packaged food industry accounting for only six per cent of the national food market, according to the study.

But as convenience becomes the goal for households, with an increase in the number of urban population, working women and income levels, over next few years the Ready-to-Eat Meals will become in the fastest growing sub-segment in the packaged food category. Frozen meal mixes is the largest selling segment, with chilled segment being the fastest growing in the global market, while the dried ready meal segments are non-existent in India.

The handful of Indian players such as MTR, ITC, Tasty Bites, Kohinoor and ADF Foods operate at very low margins due to low capacity utilisation, arising from inadequate demand. However, there will be growth of both regional small players and national players in the RTE segment owing to the diversity of the Indian cuisine, and both will do well. The factors contributing to the growth of RTE in India will be cold chain development, disintermediation, economies of scale on the supply side and increasing disposable incomes.

To realise the potential, the government has set an investment target of US$ 25.07 billion by 2015 to double India’s share in global food trade from 1.6 per cent to 3 per cent. And with rising income levels and changing consumer tastes, this segment is likely to see rapid increase in the market size.

A recent Confederation of Indian Industry report pointed out that though the opportunities for speciality ready-to-eat meals are emerging, it is happening in a very small way. Absence of freshness in such food - considered a critical aspect for the Indian consumer, has been one of the dampers, said the report.

The ready-to-eat segment, however, has been identified as one among the those holding the maximum potential for growth, and the players in the segment are optimistic about future prospects.

Export Potential
With the Indian consumer being slow in substituting home cooked foods with alternatives available in the market, manufacturers of ready-to-eat foods in India may focus on export markets at least for the time being; as the Indian consumer adjusts to the concept of ready meals in a packet.
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