Stop me if this sounds familiar: You’ve just finished a long day of work and have nothing planned for dinner – all you know is you’re hungry, you don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking and you definitely don’t feel like shopping!
All too often this story tragically ends in later-regretted fast food for you and your family and unkept promises that you’ll all eat healthier tomorrow. To be fair, fast food chains are responding to increasingly health-conscious consumers by adding low-calorie menu items and promoting salads or even fruit sides. Even so, fastfoodnutrition.org estimates the average U.S. consumer eats fast food 159 times a year! Assuming their typical meal is a burger, fries and cola that makes 7,000 grams of fat a year – enough to fill eleven 20 oz soda bottles.
It’s clear that consumer demand for convenience isn’t going anywhere but up, so food stores have rushed to cut into the fast food market by offering healthier, ready-to-eat meal options. Prepared foods are one of the fastest growing market segments; they’re a hot topic at produce tradeshows and on shortlists for key industry trends. Most importantly, consumers are buying more of them every year.
A recent consumer report, “The Why? Behind the Buy”, found that shoppers are “increasingly eating out by actually eating in” as around two-thirds of U.S. grocery shoppers have brought home prepared foods in the past month. Healthier options in particular are gaining popularity, with prepared salads being a great example.
There’s evidence that salads are increasingly becoming the main dish rather than just a side, and a 2014 report from Nielsen showed that dollar sales of prepared salads jumped a whopping 26% in 2013. The same study also explained that consumers are increasingly replacing meals with better-for-you snacks like freshcut fruits, which had a ~20% increase in offerings.
So what’s our point? Well, if the photo of a delicious chicken-and-apple salad dish didn’t give you a clue, it’s that nonbrowning Arctic® apples are perfectly suited for ready-to-eat meals, sides and snacks and the demand for these products is skyrocketing! Embarrassingly few apples are sold into foodservice, but consumers are insisting on healthier, convenient options and we see no reason to deny them!