Practical, innovative, convenient and tasty: these are the main distinctive features of frozen foods which push Italians to buy them and bring them to the table more and more often. It is no coincidence that in the sub-zero sector, the product segment of ready meals has recorded notable growth over the last few years, reaching the 65 thousand tons consumed in Italy. In 2021, the greatest increase was recorded: +10.2%, a result also confirmed in 2022, when consumption recorded substantial stability. Almost 8 out of 10 Italians say they have purchased frozen ready meals in the last year: of these, 30% say they have done so regularly. This is what emerges from a research commissioned by IIAS – Italian Institute of Frozen Food and conducted by AstraRicerche. The survey highlights the consumption habits of Italians regarding a particular product category of the frozen sector – that of ready or “recipe” meals – which especially in the North-West, among the younger generations (Gen Z and Gen Y) and in families with children under 10 years old, it is the most popular. “The first frozen ready meals arrived on the Italian market as an absolute novelty, towards the end of the 90s, after technology Individually Quick Frozen had already triggered an unprecedented revolution, introducing the process through which the individual ingredients of each recipe were frozen individually and not as a single block” he recalls Giorgio Donegani, president of IIAS.
For around 7 out of 10 Italians the main purchasing motivation is convenience, which allows you to always keep them in the freezer, therefore within reach. A third of those interviewed prefer them for the speed with which they can prepare elaborate dishes, while a similar percentage of the sample chooses them for their goodness and pleasant taste. Finally, it is economic convenience that pushes 1 in 5 Italians to purchase, but there are also those who admit to choosing them because frozen ready meals are a ‘guarantee’ of the success of recipes that otherwise would not have the same flavor and harmony . Since these products satisfy everyone’s tastes, versatility is considered their main strength according to 23.4% of those interviewed. But even more so are the ease and speed used for preparation and cooking, as well as the perfect solution when you don’t have the desire/time to cook something tasty. According to research we consume frozen ready meals especially alone, both at lunch and dinner (55.2%). But surprisingly, even family weekends (25.4%) are considered by Italians to be an excellent opportunity to bring a different “Sunday lunch” to the table, tasty but quick to prepare.
Among the many ‘types’ of frozen ready meals, there is no real one that inspires Italians more than the others. In general, side dishes are the most loved by 31.8% of the sample, almost on a par with first courses, preferred by 29.8% of those interviewed, and followed closely by second courses, chosen by 26.9% and finally by main courses, which 11.5% of respondents favor sample, composed mainly of women and Baby Boomers. But what are actually the most loved dishes? In first place, in the hearts of those interviewed we find the traditional lasagna Bolognese, a dish that recalls the beloved “grandmother’s cuisine”. Followed by mix of battered fried vegetables and paella. In the top 5, we also find ready-made frozen soups, excellent allies at this time of year, such as comfort foodpreceded equally by roast chicken with potatoes and spinach with stringy mozzarella.
At the basis of the motivations of those who declare that they have not bought frozen ready meals in the last year (2 Italians out of 10), there are erroneous beliefs. Among these, occurs the fake news according to which these products are not valid or balanced from a nutritional point of view. “It is good to remember that all frozen products, therefore, even ready meals, have the same nutritional properties and the same organoleptic characteristics as similar fresh products. Frozen products, in fact, undergo ultra-rapid freezing, which can only be done at an industrial level and not at home, in which the foods reach their temperatures in a very short time. -18°C. Precisely the speed of cooling determines the formation of micro-crystals of water which do not damage the biological structure of the food, leaving all the original characteristics of the product almost intact”, he concludes Donegani.