• Anna Drumm

The Ready Meal – Changing How We Do Business

It’s the age-old adage of the business world – Adapt or die.

Of course, in this instance the use of the word ‘die’ is extreme. Even so, one of the resounding themes of the 2019 Butchers Summit was that the world is changing and, with that, so is the current market.

There have been a number of factors contributing to this change. The birth of the internet and our subsequent addictions to information has led to the constant desire for instant gratification. People are working longer hours with less and less ‘down time’ to spend with loved ones. And people are becoming increasingly aware of their own personal carbon footprint and how their shopping choices impacts on this.

The modern shopper is heavily influenced by their fast paced, information packed, digital lifestyles. They do want healthy; they do want sustainable and they do still want quality. But, with consistently increasing levels of importance, they want convenient. A new age of consumerism has seen a different set of characteristics beginning to be the driving force behind sales. These include:

  • Being able to grab everything needed for a full, balanced meal in one shop.

  • Everyone’s dietary requirements are catered for. A growing number of New Zealand households have one or more members that are vegetarian, vegan or allergy sufferers.

  • The hard decisions have been made. They know exactly what carbohydrate and vegetable to put with the protein.

  • The ingredients are locally sourced, ethically produced and/or sustainably packaged.

So how does a traditional butcher operation diversify their offering in order to stay relevant? How do you attract the modern-day consumer who lists convenience as a products most valued asset?

Over the last few years we have seen a huge surge in the pre-packaged meal market world-wide. The food-to-go industry in the UK is already worth an estimated $50 Billion alone. These same patterns are starting to be seen here at home in New Zealand as well. Throughout the country businesses are starting fresh and expanding into everything from a pre-packaged, heat-and-eat meal plan to a complete meal kit delivered to your door ready for cooking and everything in between.

There are two primary ways you can take advantage of these changing trends. Each way comes with a different set of requirements under the Food Act 2014

A. The Complete Meal Kit:

There are a number of companies currently in the market offering a variety of complete meal kit systems with huge success. This is where all the components for a meal are provided fresh and in the right quantities. The idea is the purchaser can use it to cook a full and balanced meal without having to think about all the different ingredients required. Including instructions on how to prepare the meal is a nice touch.

B. Ready-Made, Heat and Eat Meals:

This is when you provide your customers with complete convenience. In this scenario each component of the meal is cooked, cooled, packaged and chilled or frozen. This product is sold with the intention of it being heated and eaten later.

Both of the above have an ever-growing place in the market but, they have different compliance requirements. These requirements can mean very different systems and processes for your business. Follow the flow chart below to see where the different types of meals fit under the Food Act 2014:

It is important to remember that adding a ready meal option to your offering will significantly change your scope of operations. Even if you currently have a registration under the correct category a change of this scale may mean the following areas need to be addressed;

  1. Food Control Plan: Additions will need to be made to your current plan.

  2. Record Keeping: Some additional records may need to be added to your growing collection. These could include production records, temperature and cooking proving methods and despatch records.

  3. Testing: Shelf-life testing and product safety testing procedures through an accredited lab may need to be implemented if you are planning on selling pre-cooked, heat and eat meals wholesale to other businesses.

  4. Nutritional Information Panels (NIP’s): These may need to be included on your labels.

  5. Production Area: If you are introducing pre-cooked meals where you previously have not cooked onsite you will need to think about your production area. It is important to keep cooking processes separate from the processing of raw product and ensure you have enough space to complete everything safely.

Making big changes to your food business can be tricky and getting it wrong can be costly. It is always advisable to seek professional advice. If you would like to discuss anything raised in this article or any other changes you are looking to make, we would love to hear from you. You can contact Anna Drumm directly on or 0800 FOR FCP (0800 367 327).

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