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Most growth in the U.S. chilled-food market is predicted to occur in the precut vegetables/salads and lunches/ snacks areas. Other chilled categories are expected to remain stable or decline somewhat. Despite the large market growth between 1992 and 1996, most chilled foods are marketed as line extensions of successful frozen or shelf-stable company brands. Although food companies are aware of the consumer demand for fresh, convenient foods, most do not provide proper market support or distribution channels for chilled products. Refrigerated food marketing strategies in the past have included trying to capitalize on already successful frozen or shelf-stable brands rather than pushing the products on their own merits. Most consumers purchase chilled prepared foods because they are perceived as being fresher and more convenient than similar frozen or shelf-stable products. Future trends in the chilled-food area include achieving fresher products through improved distribution practices, improving the market by focusing on the convenience of chilled foods, and developing a greater variety of value-added products to offset premium price levels of chilled foods (1).

EUROPEAN AND JAPANESE MARKETS Available Products

The European chilled-food market can be divided into seven main product categories: salad lunches, meat dishes, seafood dishes, pasta-based dishes, pizza and pizza toppings, ethnic foods, and other foods such as cheese and dairy products (1). The types of products in each of the preceding categories will vary greatly throughout Europe due to the breadth of cultural diversity. Nonseafood salad lunches account for 21% of the total chilled prepared-food sales, closely followed by meat dishes, seafood dishes, pasta-based dishes, and pizza and pizza toppings. Figure 3 illustrates the major product types and market share of each product category in the European chilled-food market.

The chilled-food market in Japan is comprised of three main product categories: Japanese-style foods, other Asian dishes, and Western dishes (1). Chilled foods in Japan tend to be marketed as snacks or luncheon replacements rather than main meal replacements.

Ethnic dishes 5%

Pizza 14% i

Other dishes 8%

Salad lunches 21%

Pasta-based dishes 16%

Meat dishes 20%

Seafood 16%

Figure 3. Available product types and market share of chilled foods in the European Community, 1996.

Current and Future Market Trends

Sales of chilled prepared foods in Europe increased from $1.5 billion to more than $2 billion during the period 1992 to 1996 (1); actual and forecasted sales figures for the European chilled-food market can be seen in Figure 4.

The growth in the chilled-food market in Europe is not as dramatic as that in the United States over the same time period. It should be noted, however, that chilled-food marketers experienced a drop in unit prices and profit margins due to the marketing of larger product portions in order to gain or expand market share (1). Growth of the European chilled-food market during the period 1997 to 2001 is also expected to be relatively slow; sales of chilled foods in Europe are expected to increase to only $2.4 billion by the year 2001. Nevertheless, chilled foods account for 19% of the total prepared-foods market in Europe, and this position is expected to increase to 22% by 2001. Scandinavia and the United Kingdom account for more than 50% of the total chilled-food market in Europe, with Germany and France accounting for another 27%. These markets are seen as relatively mature, but greater growth is expected in countries such as Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe, where chilled-food sales are still relatively small. The chilled prepared-food market in Japan increased from $433 million to $587 million during the period 1992 to 1996. Chilled-food sales in Japan are expected to increase

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