Market For Chilled Foods

The global market for chilled foods was estimated at more than $7 billion in 1996. Although other regions such as Canada and Southeast Asia have significant chilled-food markets, the global market is dominated by sales in the United States ($3.4 billion), Europe ($2.0 billion), and Japan ($590 million) (1). The market share in these regions could be attributed to a modern lifestyle in which less time is set aside for cooking at home as well as a good infrastructure for chilled-food distribution. As the types of available products, distribution of the products, and trends in each of the three largest chilled-food markets differ significantly from the others, these markets will be addressed separately.

UNITED STATES Available Products

The chilled-food market in the United States can be divided into seven main product categories: precut vegetables and salads, lunches and snacks, fully cooked poultry, pasta, pizza, sauces, and fully cooked entrees and dinners (1). A breakdown of the major product types in the United States chilled-food market can be found in Figure 1.

Although many food companies may distribute precut vegetables and salads, these items are also prepared, packaged, and stored at the retail level in supermarkets or convenience stores. Prepared salads may also include dressings and/or seasonings, croutons, or breadsticks. Lunches and snacks include small kits for making a sandwich or snack for one person. These kits may include cold cuts,

Figure 1. Available product types and market share of chilled foods in the United States, 1996.

Lunches and snacks 17%

Figure 1. Available product types and market share of chilled foods in the United States, 1996.

tuna or chicken salads, or cheese and crackers; some kits targeted specifically for children's lunches may include chips or dessert items and a beverage. Fully cooked poultry includes parts (legs, breasts, etc) as well as quarter, half, and whole birds. The majority of chilled poultry marketed in the United States is chicken, with turkey receiving an increasing market share. Most fully cooked, chilled poultry is roasted or fried and may be breaded, seasoned (barbecue, cajun, spicy hot, etc), or marinated. Chilled pasta is not typically fully cooked and usually requires some preparation. The main selling points to this particular category are freshness, variety, and reduced preparation time. Some chilled pasta products are filled with cheese or meat, some may be made with nonstandard flours (corn, bran, or pumpkin), and some may be flavored (1). Chilled pizza products fall into two main segments: kits and completely assembled uncooked or partially cooked pies (1). A pizza kit usually includes the uncooked crust, sauce, cheese, spices, and possibly other toppings. Completely assembled pizzas may be uncooked or partially cooked, but the consumer is usually required to finish the cooking. Chilled sauces tend to be upscale products positioned on gourmet recipes. Italian pasta sauces are the most popular of this category, followed by ethnic and traditional sauces. Examples may include alfredo, pesto, spicy marinara with clams, Thai with lemongrass, Mexican mole, barbecue, and seafood sauces. Fully cooked entrees and dinners are mostly cooked and meant to be heated and served. Examples may include lasagna, meatloaf, and fajitas as well as complete turkey dinners with side dishes for the holiday season (1).

Current and Future Market Trends

The retail market for chilled prepared foods in the United States advanced from $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion during the years 1992 to 1996, an increase of 87.6% (1). Most of the growth has been earned by precut vegetables/salads and lunches/snacks, with fully cooked poultry, pasta, and pizza earning small advances and chilled sauces and entrees/ dinners declining slightly. The total chilled-food market is expected to increase to more than $5 billion by the year 2001; this is demonstrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Actual and predicted market for chilled foods in the United States, 1992-2001.

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