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Spanish supermarkets 'discover' ready meals: How, where and why
10 March 2020 @ 11:14

 

READY meals' have never really been a 'thing' in Spain, with supermarket produce historically focusing largely on raw ingredients and very geared up to home cooking – but now, with the two newest generations of adults who, unless they are in the catering industry, admit they can just about cope with microwaving a tortilla without their mum's supervision, pre-packed dinners are taking off.

Unlike their UK counterparts, they are typically freshly made daily and sold in tupperwares in the refrigeration compartments, but the fare is international enough that they appeal to a wide audience – lasagne, quiche, and vegetarian, fish and vegan options.

Home-grown chains Mercadona and El Corte Inglés, and French hypermarket firm Carrefour, were the first, although prices vary considerably across the board – from €2 to €4.50 on average at Mercadona through to prices by the kilo of over €25, meaning typical portions of between €5 and €10 per person, at the latter two.

Pre-packed mixed salads, wraps, packs of croquettes, pasta dishes, chicken nuggets, paella, falafel and tahini, chips, ravioli, spaghetti, lentil or bean stew, and risotto are among the staples at Mercadona, whilst at El Corte Inglés, many of the options include fresh seafood, roast chicken, chicken curry, stuffed peppers, stuffed aubergine, paella, and goat's cheese lasagna with fresh vegetables, justifying their higher prices.

Carrefour offers a commendable value-for-money price-versus-quality ratio, with paella, fresh fish in sauce, chickpea casserole, stews, pastas, truffle and potato soup, battered squid rings, cannelloni, and cuts of meat, typically at around €10 to €13 a kilo.

 

Catering to busy lives

Sales of ready meals in supermarkets have risen by over 10% in the past year, with Mercadona having captured the lion's share of the market – about two-thirds.

Although many modern workplaces are switching to earlier finishing times with shorter lunch breaks, and the need to commute some distance from home means it is not feasible to return, cook lunch and go back to work, old habits die hard and nearly all Spaniards continue to eat their main meal in the middle of the day rather than at night after clocking off.

And the shorter lunch breaks and faster, busier pace of modern life, especially with far fewer parents able to be stay-at-home childcarers, means cooking is something that tends to happen at weekends – if at all, in some homes, given that families traditionally all meet for long lunches together at weekends and it will tend to be the older generations present who do the cooking.

This new trend has started to see more and more supermarkets jumping on the ready-meal bandwagon and trying to outdo each other on either price or quality, or both.

 

Junk food, 'proper grub' and veggie meals on the cheap

The latest to sign up are German chains Lidl and Aldi – whilst not, in general, radically cheaper in Spain than most other supermarkets, and being similar in overall price to the majority of mainstream stores, their pre-packed meal selection substantially undercuts most of the others.

Read more at thinkSPAIN.com

 



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