Convenience corner

The current world we live in is more concerned with healthy eating and active lifestyles than ever before, which means that, when it comes to convenience foods, consumers are no longer willing to settle for unhealthy, overly processed meals when it comes to saving time and hassle in the kitchen – especially where the family is concerned


Brand Central

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16 May 2016

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In our time-conscious, distraction-heavy  world, sometimes there just isn’t time to prepare a full meal. In some instances, consumers simply don’t have the inclination, and turn more and more to ready meals. Society is also more health-conscious than ever, meaning that manufacturers have had to rise to the occasion to innovate and create convenience meals that are healthy and nutritious while also retaining a fresh flavour.

The drive for convenience keeps microwaveable meals a healthy seller, so here we look at some of the latest and finest convenience offerings on the Irish market.

Santa Maria has grown exponentially in popularity since launch in Ireland in 2014

Santa Maria has grown exponentially in popularity since launch in Ireland in 2014

Mexican wave

The Santa Maria brand is active in over 22 markets around Europe, and has long been a market leader in the Nordic region. The brand is valued at €2.2m in Ireland alone, with a 13% share of the Mexican category and growing, since its launch in Tesco Ireland in 2014, which has grown to further listings this year. Santa Maria products can now be found in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, SuperValu and selected independent stores. Products include Santa Maria’s Extra Fine Selection BBQ & Grill Mesquite, Extra Fine Selection Pizza & Pasta, Extra Fine Selection Thai Wok Seasoning and Extra Fine Selection Chicken & Steak. Also from the Extra Fine range are Japanese Teriyaki, Peruvian Chilli & Lime, Jamaican Jerk and Moroccan Ras El Hanout.

ShelfLife spoke to Santa Maria’s marketing and shopper manager for UK, Paul Brixley, about Santa Maria’s journey so far and its commitment to quality in the convenience sector.

Santa Maria’s meal kits offer convenience along with fresh flavours

Santa Maria’s meal kits offer convenience along with fresh flavours

Q: What are the key trends you see taking shape in the convenience category currently?

A: Our research last year showed that 38% of people said they’re too busy to cook as often as they like, while 66% stated they were looking for quicker meals to prepare. Health is also a growing concern across all sectors, with consumers striving to make healthier food choices. Sections of the population describe themselves as “time-poor”, meaning the convenience sector has entered a new phase in shopper appeal. Santa Maria has tapped into this desire for convenience and eating well, without compromising on authentic tastes exotic world flavours and on-trend cuisines.

We have also learned that this year consumers are drawn to flavours that tell a story; they’re romanced by a product’s origin. In response, retailers will seek out products that bring shoppers into this trend without foregoing key drivers including ease and speed of preparation.

Travel and eating-out trends lead to trends in convenience foods; Mexican is the latest to catch a wave

Travel and eating-out trends lead to trends in convenience foods; Mexican is the latest to catch a wave

Santa Maria’s range of products capitalise on these trends. Its Herbs & Spices range and its Tex-Mex range are designed to help retailers cater to current consumer trends and the resulting shopper demands. A new BBQ & Grill Mesquite grinder was launched in May 2015 within Santa Maria’s Extra Fine Selection. This robust barbecue seasoning was picked by Santa Maria’s Taste Developers as a ‘one to watch’ back in 2013.

Q: Have you any plans for any new products / brand extensions in the pipeline?

A: Santa Maria plans to bring its biggest NPD release of recent months to Ireland in the near future: the Santa Maria Pulled Chicken Kit and Santa Maria Pulled Pork Kit. These meal kits tap into the burgeoning pulled meat consumption spike, while also appealing to consumer desires to make pulled meat a convenient and everyday dinner experience.

Q. What advice would you give retailers / buyers in order to further drive convenience sales?

A: While many convenience retailers find themselves working with limited space in their outlets, they must strive to offer a solid and varied selection of convenience foods to their shoppers. The alternative of stress-free online shopping is a big distraction that retailers must be wary of. Meal and convenience components should be displayed together at eye-level to encourage customers to purchase multiple products together. For example, Santa Maria Fajita Seasoning Mix should be placed beside Santa Maria Guacamole Style Topping and Soured Cream Topping.

Convenience food trends filter through from sectors such as eating out and travel, and it’s important that brands remain aware of this. This partly explains the explosion in popularity of Mexican food in Ireland in recent years, and that popularity is set to increase in the coming year. This increasing interest in tacos will seep into retail over the year to come and prompt a spike in interest from manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Offering a selection of products enabling consumers to prepare and season this popular dish, Santa Maria Taco Seasoning Mix and Santa Maria Taco Shells, Santa Maria is well placed to make the most of this trend.

Fishy delicious

JW2JW3For decades, the name John West has been synonymous with take-home fish products, helping consumers to get their recommended weekly dose of nutritious, oil-rich fish. Fish is a key source of Omega-3 fats that contribute to the normal function of the heart, which means that canned fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are excellent places for consumers to sources that all-important Omega-3.
JW6JW4The healthy provisions offered by John West products are more important than ever as consumers seek healthy options while on the move or strapped for time in the evenings. That’s why the No Drains Infusions range is an exciting new line that offers new ways to accommodate fish in recipes and sandwiches.

JW7JW1No Drain Infusions are available in seven flavours of Tuna, as well as two newly-launched Salmon infusions: Sweet Chilli and Teriyaki. The brand says they’re delicious, easy to use and will be supported with a strong TV and sampling campaign.

John West aims to encourage consumers to discover how quick, easy and convenient it is to create a tasty lunch or dinner using its wide range of fish options, thereby boosting sales and increasing the fish in diets across the country.



Time for a bite

Around Noon CEO Gareth Chambers believes consumers “buy with their eye”

Around Noon CEO Gareth Chambers believes consumers “buy with their eye”

Around Noon is a strong believer in improving lunchtime through “honest food” and innovation in the look and feel of its products. CEO Gareth Chambers explains…

Q: What are the key trends you see taking shape in the convenience foods category?

A: There’s a huge trend towards colour at the moment in the food-to-go space. Producers are displaying food to create bright and interesting spectrums of colour on the shelf and in fridge displays. That old saying “people buy with their eyes” rings true here in that the best display or most colourful selection of foods is often the most attractive, and therefore sells the most. We planogram sandwiches, snacks and juices in blocks of colour and have driven a trend towards less packaging in an effort to show off the natural colours of food, whether that be bright pinks of pomegranate in our superfood salads, or the dark greens of our Spinach, Apple, Pear & Mint Juice. Using the natural food colour on the shelf is the most relevant food trend of the moment, for us. Colour on the shelf says fresh, vibrant and attractive. The idea also links in with the current trend towards cleaner, healthy eating, as often the most naturally coloured foods are the healthiest ones.

Q: How do you differentiate your product from your competitors’?

A: At Around Noon we believe in improving lunchtime; in fact, that’s our mission: “To create great, honest food and make lunchtime taste better.” Our approach to ingredient quality and our focus on innovating with food is different, and you can taste it in our products.

Q: Have you any plans for any new products or brand extensions in the pipeline?

A: We are about to launch a fantastic new range of innovative products for sandwich delis that we would dearly like to share with retailers. Traditionally, we would have always focused on pre-packed products; however, we feel that some of the new, unpackaged, up-market deli sandwiches and carriers we are pioneering are just too good to keep to ourselves!

Q: What advice would you give retailers or buyers in order to further drive convenience sales?

A: The consumer will simply no longer accept poor quality food-to-go. If you are going to operate in this space, it’s important to innovate and move with trends. Packaging and design are important, just as taste and flavour profiles are. Repeat custom is only achievable if those boxes are ticked…and if it’s colourful, of course!

To learn more about Around Noon, visit










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