Technical

Beyond Limits: Enhancing Nutrition in the World of Convenience Foods

Indeed, the shift towards convenience foods, such as Ready-To-Eat (RTE) and Ready-To-Cook (RTC) items, is a prominent trend in today’s fast-paced society. This shift is influenced by various factors, including hectic lifestyles, demanding work schedules, and socio-economic changes, particularly urbanization.

Consumers nowadays are busy juggling their professional and personal lives. Hectic working hours leave less time to prepare elaborate meals. This is giving rise to the adoption of convenience foods like Ready-To-Eat (RTE) and Ready-To-Cook (RTC) foods worldwide2.

Convenience foods appeal to both teenagers and working professionals who have little time for cooking. Bachelors, lacking culinary skills or the desire for elaborate meals, also favour these products. Even busy parents appreciate the convenience of Ready-To-Eat (RTE) and Ready-To-Cook (RTC) foods as a quick and reliable meal option for their children.2,3.

Manufacturers and retailers have recognized this growing demand and have responded by expanding their offerings in the RTE and RTC categories. This expansion provides consumers with a wide range of choices, including fully prepared meals and partially cooked ingredients that can be quickly assembled.3,4.

The convenience food industry continues to innovate, incorporating health-conscious options, diverse cuisines, and sustainable packaging. Ready-to-eat meals are processed and involve preservation technology, thereby extending product shelf life. The efforts and time saved on food preparation and its convenience of storage and transport have further aided in boosting its demand. According to the “Food and Health Survey 2020” by the International Food Information Council, of 1,011 Americans (aged between 18 and 80 years), 19% of consumers ate more pre-made meals from their pantry or freezer.3,4

While convenience is a key driver, consumers are also becoming more discerning, seeking products that not only offer convenience but also meet their nutritional needs and align with their dietary preferences.

Challenges towards RTE & RTC products

Ready-to-eat (RTE) and ready-to-cook (RTC) meals, which are easy to obtain and can be easily handled quickly, have helped solve the dining problems of many people. There is, however, the concern of the processed food products losing the flavour of the original food ingredients. The preservation methods used in RTE and RTC foods, such as freezing, can sometimes affect the texture and taste of the final product. Additionally, some preservation techniques may involve the use of additives or chemicals that could be a concern for certain consumers4.

Many RTE foods can be high in salt, sugar, and preservatives to enhance flavour and shelf life. This may contribute to unhealthy dietary habits, leading to concerns about nutrition and overall well-being. Consumers are advised to eat “food” rather than “food products”, as the latter usually contains harmful additives for better tastes and longer storage periods2.

Another challenge for manufacturers is addressing consumers’ negative perceptions that convenience foods contain preservatives, which are believed to diminish their nutritional value. Health experts have also suggested that these foods may contribute to health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol. These concerns deter consumers from purchasing such convenience foods3.

Potential Solutions in RTE & RTC Industry

When it comes to convenience foods, taste is key. BENEO has developed a new technology to alter the functional properties of native rice starch. To prepare delicious soups, sauces, or ready-to-eat meals, not only texture creation and shelf-life stability are important, but also tolerance of the starch towards varying processing conditions (ranging from gentle pasteurization to more severe retorting conditions) becomes a decisive factor to control1.

Thanks to this process, native rice starch achieves performance levels comparable to chemically modified food starches without using any chemicals. The combination of Remypure S51 and this new technology allow food manufacturers to create unique textures and excellent product stability under harsh processing conditions (low pH, high temperature, high shear) with the sole use of clean-label rice starch1.

In RTE/RTC applications, Palsgaard’s fat crystallizers play a pivotal role in promoting effective fat crystallization. By creating a network of small crystals, they adeptly entrap and bind the oil phase in a well-distributed net, ensuring that the finished product remains stable and free from oil separation even when stored at elevated temperatures. Say goodbye to worries about product quality, as fat crystallizers guarantee a seamless and superior end result.

Halcyon Protein, an Australian manufacturer, provides a diverse array of specialty flavourings distinguished by an exceptional savoury umami taste. Their product line includes naturally occurring yeast extracts, derived from the digestion of yeast cells, which release ribonucleotide and amino acids. This distinctive umami characteristic makes it an ideal substitute for MSG or a means of reducing salt in foods. Furthermore, these offerings align with customer preferences by being non-GMO, free from preservatives, and devoid of additives.

Find the Solutions Here!

Opting for ingredients that offer positive benefits not only elevates the solutions of your products but also meets consumer demands effectively. As a full-suite market enabler for food businesses, DPO International works in tandem with specialized food ingredient producers such as BENEO, Palsgaard and Halcyon Protein to help you transform the latest trends into innovative products.

Talk to us and find out how we can help you to create an up-to-date trend of RTE & RTC food market. We provide a comprehensive solution for food manufacturers seeking to diversify their product range, providing a perfect blend of nutritional excellence and market appeal.

 

References

  1. Cuni-Mertz, L. (2023). The key trends driving snack segment growth. Food Business News.
  2. Euromonitor International (2023). Snacks in Asia Pacific 2024.
  3. Glanbia Nutritionals (2022). Future of Healthy Snacking in ASPAC.
  4. Grand View Research (2023). Snacks Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report by Product (Frozen & Refrigerated, Fruit, Bakery), By Packaging (Bags & Pouches, Boxes), By Distribution Channel, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 – 2030.
  5. Grasso, S. (2020). Extruded snacks from industrial by-products: A review, Trends in Food Science & Technology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2020.03.012.
  6. Monteiro Cordeiro de Azeredo, H., Carvalho de Matos, M., & Madazio Niro, C. (2021). Something to chew on: Technological Aspects for novel snacks. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 102(6), 2191–2198. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.11701.
  7. Shital, C. (2024). Healthy Snacks Market Size in 2024: Analysis, Size, Share, Trends, and Forecasts Report by 2031. Medium.
  8. Statista (2024). Snack Food – Worldwide.
  9. Warren, B. & Stachiw, N. (2023). Overcoming Challenges in Plant-based Innovation.