Stagnating over 2014-2019, ready meals in Eastern Europe maintains strong potential for growth. Despite strong reliance on traditional products, such as pelmeni and pierogi, opportunities for development extend to all ready meals categories. It is expected to be common for ready meals to reposition as healthier and more premium, and to expand in terms of the product assortment.
Ready meals in Eastern Europe is heavily dominated by frozen ready meals. Traditional for most countries in the region, different variations of dumplings, such as pelmeni, vareniki, pierogi, gombóc and others, remain at the core of the category. While national products are more common, the introduction of more exotic products, alongside continuous new product development, is supporting the performance of this mature category.
Economic downturn, which began in Russia and Ukraine at the end of 2014, seriously hampered the development of ready meals. Declining consumer purchasing power in both countries forced a reduction in the consumption of ready meals and a switch from more convenient to more affordable options.
The development of modern retail in the region had a notable impact on the growth of ready meals. Apart from ample refrigeration facilities, necessary for the storage of chilled and frozen ready meals, modern retailers have actively engaged in the creation of private label ready meals.
The competitive environment in ready meals allows for the successful performance of new entrants and smaller players through exploring new emerging categories. Even in the mature frozen ready meals category fragmentation is rather high, and continuous successful new product launches are constantly seen.
Ready meals is forecast to see value growth in Eastern Europe. There is strong potential for less developed categories, such as chilled ready meals and prepared salads, due to their association with health and wellness trends. However, even the core frozen ready meals category is set to see further expansion.
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