Is It Possible to Prepare Healthy RTE Meals?

‘Quick’ is the best way to describe our modern life and we can see it our eating behaviour. The presence of ready-to-eat meals in our homes is increasing every year due to our busy lives. But at the same time, the obesity and overweight, the diabetes and other non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases are also growing. The question is: are there any ways to reconcile the health and the convenience in this busy life?


On the one side, ready-to-eat meals (RTE) are characterized by having a longer shelf-life and being products already done that facilitates the life. RTE are often heat processed products and a single meal is high in proteins and fats but low in energy and carbohydrates.

On the other hand, people don’t have enough time to cook proper meals because their daily lives are full of tasks and deadlines. However, they want to eat home-made tasty meal. They know about health issues relating to nutrition and physical activity and there is an increasing consumers’ demand on sustainable, safer and healthier products.
In response to this demand, the food industry has focused on developing RTE meals. In 2019, global revenue from ready-to-eat meals was $ 98.12 billion and in 2024, the global revenue is expected to reach $ 122.95 billion.

According to a recent study by Future Market, the meat/poultry product type segment within RTE is estimated to be valued at $44.54 billion in 2016 and is likely to expand at a CAGR of 7.7% over 2026.

The food industry recognizes the increasing consumers’ demand and the importance to assist in decreasing non-communicable diseases. For this reason consumers look for natural processes that help to keep fresh food characteristics such as flavor and nutrients while providing food safety and extending shelf-life. High pressure processing meets 100% of these requirements.

High Pressure Processing (HPP) is a non-thermal technology that applies high hydrostatic pressure (up to 6 000 bar), during some seconds or minutes to provide:
Clean Label. Reduces or eliminates the need to use preservatives or other additives.
Premium Quality. HPP is a non-thermal process that maintains the color, flavor and nutritional value of products.
Minimum Previous Cooking. Before the HPP treatment, the ready-to-eat meal requires only minimal cooking to achieve optimal flavor.
Extended Shelf-Life. HPP extends the shelf-life of ready-to-eat products for several weeks.
Food Safety. HPP inactivates food-borne pathogens and spoilage microorganisms such as Salmonella spp., E. coli, molds and yeasts. Furthermore, recontamination is avoided since products are processed in their final packaging.

The versatility of this technology allows it to be applied to a wide variety of RTE meals consisting of meat, fish, vegetables, rice, and pasta. HPP also allows the development of innovative products, guaranteeing food safety and avoiding any type of recontamination since the process is applied to the final packaging.

In the particular case of seafood, HPP has an impressive and completely different application. It is the most effective and productive solution to extract raw meat from crustaceans’ shells and open molluscs with yields close to 100%, avoiding the need for boiling. This process maximizes the output and allows launching new products with a higher added-value: ready-to-cook raw or frozen meat, with no shell, maintaining the sensorial characteristics of the fresh product.

HPP in-pack processing requires flexible packaging to accompany the product’s compression (about 20% of its volume) when under pressure, which means plastic packaging.

The HPP market is successful. There are about 500+ HPP industrial machines installed globally, more than double compared to 5 years ago. Hiperbaric is the global leading supplier with more than 300 installations worldwide.

HPP product’s volume is growing faster because the food industry wants to satisfy consumers. Also, HPP machines are becoming more productive over the years due to constant technical improvements and innovations, which decrease bottlenecks and costs of goods sold.

The most potential HPP markets by sector are beverages, dips (guacamole, hummus, etc.) and all wet ready-to-eat products. Convenience remains one of the main trends, both in RTE and regular HPP products. Well-known worldwide brands such as The Soup Spoon, Goodheart, Ghezzi Alimentari, Kakui Foods, MRM, Sandridge Foods, Munaxor Villa Food have managed to guide their RTE product portfolio to respond to this trend.

Distributors also explore the advantages of HPP, as more and more supermarkets include products processed by high pressure on their shelves. In addition to having a safe product, these Premium foods maintain their sensory, nutritional and functional quality. Moreover, HPP products have an extended shelf life, which allows producers and distributors to have fewer turnovers, better manage stock and not create waste.

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