Ready to eat meat market growth: What manufacturers need to know

Ready to eat meat products have seen a large growth in demand in the latter half of 2023 and start of 2024. This has led to a significant growth forecast for the UK’s pre-prepared and processed meat market in 2024. In this article, we break down the context surrounding this development, as well as what this means for manufacturers in the food and drink industry.


What’s been happening in the ‘ready to eat’ meat market

Many experts cite supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the cost of living crisis, as being major factors in increasing demand for pre-prepared meat. This is believed to have caused both an increased demand for eating out and a greater priority placed on budget meat options. The result is an increased demand for pre-prepared meat from homes and restaurants alike. Data shows the market for ready-to-eat meals is set to grow 3% from 2024-2028 from its current estimated size of $15.83bn.

Ready-to-eat meat has increased in popularity because it is versatile and has a relatively low cost when compared to other proteins. A good example are sausages, which are mass produced through streamlined production lines and often feature cheaper cuts of meat. Other examples include heavily manufactured and pre-cooked meat products which can be consumed out of the house, such as scotch eggs and breaded chicken. All these products also tend to be ideal for freezing, which brings convenience to consumers.


What food manufacturers need to know

Whether your production is already focused on ready-to-eat meat or you are thinking of adapting to market conditions, there are a number of recommendations from food engineering consultants that should be taken into account.

As mentioned, meat processing often requires the installation of a range of machinery and systems that need to be integrated with any existing infrastructure. Businesses should therefore be prepared to spend a significant amount of cash. Automating key parts of the production line can be essential to cutting costs in the long term. The FESS Group has intentionally honed our automation expertise to focus on two of the most impactful areas in food production, Conveyor Belts and Multihead Weighers.

The market for ready-to-eat food is well established, featuring many sizeable businesses. The similarity between many ready-to-eat products also adds to the difficulty many businesses encounter when trying to gain market share. Although it’s important to note that shifting focus to niche products can require a new production strategy and steps to implement it.

The efficiency of production lines is dependant on the continued functioning of key systems and machinery. This is especially true for ready-to-eat food production, as many steps are involved in large scale manufacturing. Commercial food equipment repair must therefore be conducted quickly to prevent loss of output. Sourcing expert M and E contractors can help ensure proper installation of assets and a maintenance schedule to minimise the risk of breakdown.

At the time of writing, there continues to be an emphasis from consumers on sustainable food practices. Where alternative packaging is usually encouraged in other kinds of food manufacturing, this is not always the case for ready-to-eat meat products. This is because these products must be kept in airtight containers to ensure they are safe to eat after they have completed their journey through the supply chain. Paperboard has been identified as a valid alternative as it works well with chilled and frozen ready-to-eat meat products.

Looking for expert manufacturing advice?

We have worked as a consultant for food processing industry businesses, including Morrisons, Fox’s, and more. As a result, our experts are constantly aware of changing market conditions that are likely to affect our clients. This contextual knowledge allows us to provide consultancy services which are intentionally tailored to your business goals. Get in touch to book a free site survey or simply to chat about what we can do for you.

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