Health drives consumers

Shoppers are flocking to the fresh aisles and back to their kitchens as the growth in health outstrips convenience for people's meal choices.

New figures from independent research company TNS shows that between 2004 and 2007 there was a 15% rise in health being the main reason for choosing a meal; convenience only saw 1% growth.

The latest figures were printed in 'Green Shoots' a wide-ranging report from red meat promotion body Quality Meat Scotland into changing consumer attitudes to their food. The report highlights the shifts in behaviour that are driving people back to the kitchen.

There has been an across-the-board rise in key indicators of people looking to make their mealtimes healthier, with more than 75% of people surveyed saying they like to eat healthily, more than half changing to healthier foods and more than a third saying they are on cholesterol lowering diets.

Laurent Vernet, head of marketing for Quality Meat Scotland, said: "A fundamental realignment of how the main shopper evaluates food is happening. They are moving away from seeing high fat as unhealthy and low fat as healthy to, in their own words, "proper food versus rubbish food" This is good news for the fresh meat sector, with red meat considered as a nutritionally rich option for mealtimes.

"Another interesting development is the number of people getting back into the kitchen again and enjoying cooking meals from fresh, particularly in the 17-24 age group."

Research shows that average preparation times for meals has increased in recent years to nearly 20 minutes, reversing a longer-term trend. It is backed up by sales figures revealing big gains for beef, lamb and pork, and also in cooking ingredients such as vegetables, dried pasta, rice, herbs and spices.

Laurent said: "The shoppers that have resolved to cook from scratch are more often finding added benefits: it can be cheaper, doesn't necessarily take longer, the meals are more filling and make their children more contented.

"The drive to convenience meals from a "cash rich, time poor" generation saw the average time spent preparing meals diminish. But that is now changing and I think people are beginning to see what was sacrificed for convenience.

"It's gratifying to see that particularly young people are going back to the kitchen armed with healthy, tasty, simple and quick recipes."

This research ties in with a major health initiative currently being run by QMS. The 'Feel Good About Meat' campaign outlines the health benefits of eating red meat as part of a balanced diet and highlights its iron, zinc and B vitamin content.

More information about the campaign can be found at www.feelgoodaboutmeat.co.uk

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