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In our fast-paced society, pre-prepared food products, so called convenience foods, are more in demand than ever. What’s behind the name? Do these products support a balanced diet?

 

Chilled food

12 noon: You’re hungry. A quick trip to the supermarket to buy something healthy. But what? The cooling counter offers a wide variety of fresh meals from baguettes to complete main courses. You quickly choose the ready-meal you fancy, you’re tempted by a smoothie and milk rice with cherries. That’s lunch sorted.


More and more supermarkets are offering fresh meals from chiller counters. To produce this chilled food, fresh produce is processed – sometimes more, sometimes less. This usually means washing, peeling, seasoning, mixing, precooking, packaging and chilling down to between 0 and 8 degrees. What makes it special is that it’s fresh, it contains no preservatives and it’s ready to eat immediately or after heating through briefly.


The chilled food trend originated in the United Kingdom and France. In Germany, the market is growing, but slowly. At the start of 2011, the first convenience-to-go supermarket opened up in Cologne. It specialises in fresh, ready-to-eat food. The product range is targeted mainly at people on the lookout for an alternative to normal fast food. At the supermarket, customers can quickly select their meals, have them heated through and take them away. Marketing experts see big growth potential in chilled food because people’s food expectations are high, even for fast food: It should be tasty, fresh and healthy and contain few additives.

 

Fresh-cut fruit and veg

For many people, eating fruit and vegetables five times a day is not so easy. They find preparing the food too time consuming and tedious. Why can’t all fruit and vegetables be as practical as a banana? Fresh-cut products offer an easy solution. The idea: make it as easy as possible for customers and offer freshly prepared fruit and vegetables for immediate consumption. What has been standard offer in restaurants and catering is now available in small, practical formats.


Many chiller counters in supermarkets now offer peeled and sliced fruit in plastic trays, mixed salads in bags with a suitable dressing or mini-carrots as a healthy between-meals snack. In spring time, an asparagus peeling machine tempts people to buy asparagus. Pineapple sales have increased hugely now that supermarkets have started offering fresh, sliced pineapple. Especially the big supermarkets, with their high footfall, are successfully offering a lot of fresh-cut products. Some have even installed a cook and a kitchen where salads are freshly mixed and sliced fruit is prepared.
 

Quick fixes

Who isn’t familiar with the after-work rush? You come home tired and hungry and the stress is multiplied if you have a family who are all tired and hungry. So you fetch frozen vegetables and turkey mince from the freezers. You take a ready-made spice mix for a turkey vegetable stir-fry from the cupboard and off you go! Put the pan on the stove, fry the meat, add the vegetables, spice mix and cream and stir until ready. Done. Now, just relax and enjoy.


Ready-made products and ready-to-cook herb mixtures from the supermarket’s dry goods assortments are very popular and continue to show increased sales. Many people like cooking fresh food at home. With ready-made products, so the advertising goes, every dish is an effortless success. To ensure varied meals, the producers continuously think up new ready-made products: Asian flavourings, oven meals, vegetable or fish stir-fries, salad sauces – there seem to be no limits.


The supermarkets make it very easy for their customers. They put ready-made flavourings for meat dishes right next to the meat counter, the salad counter offers ready-made salad sauces and the dried pastas are cheek by jowl with a huge choice of ready-made pasta sauces. The cook book can stay unopened on the shelf and the meal is ready almost instantaneously.


Source: Carmen Menn, www.aid.de

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