Prepared meal marketers look to restaurants for ideas

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th October 2008

There’s a battle emerging around the American dinner table as new solutions for prepared meals arise.

Addicted to restaurant-quality fare, consumers are seeking meals that also meet their demands for convenience, flavour and variety, according to Prepared Meal Solutions Culinary Trend Mapping Report from the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and Packaged Facts.

Chef-Inspired Meals

Following in the footsteps of successful American chain restaurant Curbside Pickup, offering signature dishes on the fly to harried diners, fine-dining chefs are jumping into the prepared meal ring with upscale versions of meals consumers cook at home. Boutique takeaway outlets, seeking to capitalise on consumers trading down from restaurants, are countering with easily accessible, bistro-quality comfort food with a local feel and rotating menus.

Grocery Mimics Restaurants

Frozen and refrigerated prepared meals imitate these restaurant-centric options, offering compelling competition. Stylish packaged foods lure diners with inviting dishes often influenced by hot ethnic food trends. Their meaningful product claims like “Organic,” “Sustainable Seafood,” “Artisanal,” and “Authentic Recipe” are quickly leveling the playing field. Supermarket Prepared Foods compete with dynamic food courts offering everything from make-your-own pizza to noodle bars, as well as convenience.

Consumers Demand and Get Choices

Meanwhile, new meal services, including Personal Chefs and Meal Assembly Outlets, have the unique ability to allow consumers to customize menus to meet needs and tastes. “The opportunities for manufacturers and restaurant operators, often consist of borrowing best practices from the other,” notes Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD.

“Consumers want choices,” Egan adds, “so there is plenty of room for all prepared meal marketers around the dinner table.”