Major trends in the category of branded refrigerated meals and meats products are centered on making products more convenient, healthier, and more creative or original in their approach to flavors and ingredients, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts (

The finding was published in Packaged Facts' recently released report, Branded Refrigerated Meats and Meals: U.S. Market Trends. Sales in the U.S. market for refrigerated meats and meals increased from $22 billion in 2009 to $25 billion in 2013, due in part to most Americans continuing to choose meat and meat-based products as their primary protein source.  Packaged Facts estimates sales will grow to $31 billion by 2018, spurred by food marketers increased introduction of products that emphasize convenience, health, and originality.

Food industry observers have noted over the past few years that consumers are demanding more convenient products, characterized by their ease of preparation.  When it comes to convenience, the appeal applies to younger consumers who are both on-the-go because of work and/or lifestyles and who also may not have developed real cooking skills; older consumers, who want preparing meals to be as easy as possible; and parents, who need to feed themselves and children despite working long hours that have them out early and home late.  The quality of convenient refrigerated meats and meals has evolved as marketers have come to understand that the same consumers who require convenience are often those who strive to have more upscale products in their lives.

The health factor can refer to many aspects of a food product, but for refrigerated meals and meats it is often used to indicate that a product is from animals that have been raised under humane conditions and without the use of antibiotics or GMO ingredients in their feed. It can also be a reference to the use of leaner cuts.  Similarly, the idea of "safe" in the food and beverage industry can be considered a subset of healthy. "Some consumers are less concerned about getting products that improve their health but rather want to be sure the products they purchase won't do them harm," says Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.

Creative/new refers to products that offer consumers something they haven't had before or at least haven't had in a particular combination of flavors or forms. More specifically, it may refer to an unusual cut of meat that comes from a selective cattle source, such as Kobe beef from wagyu cattle. But it can also mean using a more traditional cut of meat enhanced with ethnic flavorings, alcoholic beverages, or various smoke flavors in the creation of a refrigerated meal product.