Forecourts should take advantage of the growing consumption of chilled ready meals, which now account for more than 50% of the average Briton’s spend on prepared meals, according to a new report by Datamonitor.

Danielle Rebelo, consumer analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report – entitled ‘Insights into Tomorrow’s Prepared Meal Consumers’ – said the UK was the only country in Europe where spending on chilled prepared meals dominated that of frozen meals.

“The reason for the growing popularity of chilled meals fits in with an increasing consumer awareness of the health benefits of fresher food, and the dangers of too much salt and additives,” said Rebelo. “Chilled meals have grown in popularity in the UK as they are perceived to have improved sensory benefits, use better quality and fresher ingredients, and contain fewer additives than frozen meals. Britons are now more demanding and more willing to pay a premium for higher quality meal solutions, which is driving chilled meal consumption.

“They are prepared to pay a premium for convenient meal solutions that do not sacrifice quality, health or sensory benefits,” stressed Rebelo.

In 2004 Britons spent £1.9 billion on prepared meals, and though this figure looks set to rise over the next five years, the report shows most consumers claim the unhealthy features of prepared meals limit their consumption.