Ready Meals Market in the US and Canada

Explore how the ready meals market in the US and Canada is developing

June 5, 2024 –  Through Innova’s extensive 360 research, the North American ready meals market will be explored, analyzing trends in product launches, sales, and consumer preferences. Key subcategories, and flavors driving growth will also be covered, as well as key differences between the United States and Canada ready meal markets.

Product Launch Trends

North America is the third most active ready meals market for product launches. The category has also remained stable in launches within the overarching ready meals and side dishes category. Protein and fiber rich launches, better-for-you options, and indulgent and premium offerings sustain new product development in the region.

The main dishes subcategory dominates new product development in the category, representing over half of all product launches. In the last year, the subcategory has risen in launch share by 8%.

The United States is the top market in the region for ready meal and meal kit launches. From 2019 to 2022, Canada was seen inching closer to an equivalent amount of product launches compared to the US, but since 2022 the US has outpaced Canada. Vegan choices, plant-based versions, and launches supporting weight management display potential in the US. In Canada, gourmet offerings, convenient choices, and region inspired launches improve new product development.

Subcategory Analysis: Main Dishes

In the past five years, main dishes have steadily increased their share of launches within the ready meal market. In 2019, the subcategory represented 27% of launches, but grew to 50% in 2023. Authentic Indian choices, novel platter ranges, and cheesy version help drive new product development.

Conagra Brands and Nestlé are the most active launchers of main dishes in the region. Chili with beans, grilled chicken with ingredients like pesto and marsala, imparting flavors, stove top microwave prep ranges, and protein rich changes drive company launches.

Subcategory Analysis: Meal Kits

Meal kits are experiencing a decreasing share of launches in the last five years, however the subcategory is still growing in sales and product launches within the larger North American food and beverage industry. The subcategory remains attractive with popular options including street tacos, Asian-inspired kits, pan dinners, and pasta salads. Key flavor trends in meal kits include Mexican-style ranch seasoning, salsa verde sauce, smoky fajita chipotle sauce, and Vietnamese beef pho. The subcategory continues to innovate with new flavors and ingredients, offering consumers convenient and flavorful meal solutions.

Ready Meals Market

Subcategory Analysis: Ready Meals

The ready meals subcategory has experienced fluctuation between 2019 and 2023. Despite this, the subcategory has shown steady growth within the ready meals market, with sales and launches increasing by an average of 2.5% and 2.4% annually. Onigiri options with Korean barbecue mushrooms, Japanese vegetable curry, and kale gomae, prepared fruit options, and chicken flavors like Mexican fajita, and Chinese sweet & sour help support the subcategory’s growth.

Ready Meals Positioning Trends

High source of protein is the leading positioning in North America, seen on 32% of product launches. No additives or preservatives, gluten free, vegan, and plant based are additional top claims in the category. Growing claims include no added sugar, vegetarian, and lactose free in the United States, while traditional, no trans fats, and GMO free are gaining traction in Canada. The increasing popularity of better-for-you options with claims of no added sugar and no trans fats, as well as the rise of vegan and plant-based choices, suggests a growing consumer demand for healthier and more sustainable ready meal and meal kit options.

Ready Meals Flavor Trends

Chicken is the leading flavor in ready meals and meal kits by a wide margin, seen on 24% of product launches. The next most popular flavor, beef, is seen on 9.6% of launches, followed by cheese, chili, and pork. In the US, coconut, beans, and chipotle chili are emerging flavors, while in Canada, shrimp, turkey, and tuna are growing.

What’s Next in the Ready Meals Market?

Several key innovation opportunities within the North American ready meals and meal kits category are highlighted through our findings.

There is a strong demand for ethnic flavors, particularly Japanese teriyaki, Indian tikka masala, and Mexican fajita. Additionally, coconut, beans, and chipotle chili are emerging as popular flavor profiles.

Consumers are increasingly seeking clean label options, with a preference for products free of additives, preservatives, GMOs, and artificial ingredients. This presents an opportunity for brands to highlight natural ingredients and sustainable practices. Vegan and plant-based options are also gaining significant traction, particularly in the United States. This trend offers a substantial opportunity for brands to develop innovative plant-based meal solutions.

Consumers are seeking gourmet offerings, particularly in Canada. This suggests an opportunity for brands to develop premium, high-quality ready meals and meal kits. Finally, there are distinct regional preferences. For example, Canada shows a strong interest in traditional flavors and trans-fat-free options, while the United States leans towards weight management and lactose-free choices. Brands can subsequently tailor their products towards their country of choice.


This article is based on our report, “Overview of Ready Meals & Meal Kits in US & Canada.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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