The clear star of the food market has been the convenience foods sector, growing by an impressive 70 per cent over the past 10 years, outstripping staple foods such as dairy, bread, meat and fruit and vegetables.
"Not only has the convenience food sector grown the fastest over these years, it is also the largest sector, with almost £17 billion spent on convenience food in 2003," says the report.
This figure represents a billion pounds more than in 2002, and almost a third - 32 per cent - of the total spending on food.
But perversely, Mintel's research reveals that time is not necessarily the main issue behind the growth in the convenience market. According to the findings, fewer than one in five consumers - 19 per cent - feel that they do not have the time to prepare meals, a fall from almost one in four - 23 per cent - ten years ago.
This suggests that consumer's might prefer to do something other than cook, implying that desire rather than time might be nearer the issue."Today there is such a huge choice of ready meals available that people can now enjoy exotic and sophisticated dishes in the comfort of their own home, whether it is alone or with friends. It is no surprise then that some 80 per cent of British homes now have a microwave," said Peter Ayton, chief statistician at Mintel.
So as a consumer, we want more time away from the kitchen stove in order to spend in other ways, like eating out. According to Mintel, the eating out market has grown considerably over the past 10 years, with people spending more than £25 billion on eating out in 2003 - 60 per cent more than in 1993.
"This clearly shows that the British today have money in their pockets and are choosing to spend it on enjoying themselves," said Mintel.
Money that they are willing to spend on food - good news for the food manufacturer constantly emerged in research and development to come up with new food products to appeal to the constant morphing of the consumer.
Once again, confirming evident trends in the industry, and intimately tied up with 'convenience concept', Mintel found that fast food was the largest sector of the food market. Today, UK consumers collectively spend a massive £10 billion on hamburgers, fried chicken, chips and other fast food.
But as sales of fast food grew by 80 per cent between 1993 and 2003, the difference between what the consumer spends on fast food and what he/she spends in restaurants has widenednoticeably since 1993. The same is true of pub food, according to the report.