Why are ready meals popular

Cook? No thanks! - Why we are eating more and more ready meals

Cooking has never been so easy. We get all kinds of groceries in the supermarket all year round and, if necessary, around the clock in online shops. If you want, fresh organic quality vegetables are regularly brought to your doorstep. Other services deliver the ingredients for an entire recipe, including instructions, to the kitchen, so to speak. Whether microwave, steam cooker or Thermomix - we can prepare the ingredients easily and gently in the most modern kitchen appliances. What do we do We'd rather quickly put the ready-made pizza in the oven.

According to a study by the Federal Association of the German Food Industry (BVE), only 32 percent of Germans cook regularly themselves. 42 percent of consumers, on the other hand, say that they almost never stand on the stove. The result: sales of ready-made meals are increasing. And quickly. Consumption has almost doubled in recent years. In 2005, the Germans were still eating 570,000 tons of pre-prepared meals. Nine years later it was 964,000 tons, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office. Doctors, consumer advocates and politicians, on the other hand, warn against regular consumption: too much fat, too much sugar, too few valuable nutrients. Numerous studies sum up those who eat this way run the risk of having to struggle with obesity and the consequences such as diabetes or high blood pressure in the long term. But at least: If a household cooks regularly, it is mostly with high-quality, i.e. fresh and unprocessed ingredients, according to BVE.

But why are we doing this to ourselves? Why do we cram ourselves with more and more canned ravioli, instant noodles and bag meals at a time when the options for a healthy diet are so diverse? In our modern everyday life between job, daycare, yoga class and family visit, do we simply no longer have time to cook something sensible?

The pressure to perform and increasing mobility are certainly among the reasons for the increasing consumption of ready-made meals, believes the cultural scientist Prof. Gunther Hirschfelder, co-author of the Nestlé future study "How is (s) t Germany 2030". The type of diet is clearly determined by the time factor. “The more industrialized and modern a society is, the more time-oriented it functions,” says Hirschfelder. However, this is not a fundamental problem. "The problem in Germany is not the consumption of ready meals per se, but the poor quality of these," he says. In countries like France or Japan, the quality is much higher. One must orient oneself to such standards.

Nutritionists like Susanne Büscher criticize the often poor quality of ready meals. The Hamburg ecotrophologist is particularly annoyed that so many families with children use the colorful packaging. “The over-spiced taste, reinforced by additives and artificial flavors, becomes established in children,” explains Büscher. The result: A freshly prepared potato salad tastes comparatively strange to the adolescents who only know it from home from the prepackaged. The expert knows many similar examples from her daily work. “This is a dramatic development,” says Büscher.

A fresh meal is actually cooked relatively quickly. And with a little organization and planning, a lot is possible even with limited time. Then you cook pasta or rice for two days or make several servings of a dish, freeze it and reheat it if necessary. There is also nothing wrong with frozen basic products, for example pre-chopped vegetables from the freezer. On the contrary: the ingredients are often richer in vitamins than fresh produce from the supermarket.

“Cooking with fresh ingredients is definitely cheaper,” says Büscher. German households spend an average of around 340 euros a month on groceries, but most have significantly less than this amount available. If you also buy finished goods from it, the budget is quickly used up.

In a self-experiment, the consumer center in Hamburg found out that ready-made foods are on average 184 percent more expensive than self-prepared food. 14 self-made foods were tested in comparison to 21 finished and semi-finished products. As a result, the company's own creations were always significantly cheaper, the industrial offers at least twice, and some times even three times as expensive. "If someone costs 3 euros more per day as a result, then they lose a thousand a year," calculates Silke Schwartau, nutrition expert at the Hamburg Consumer Center.

In addition, the testers found that of the 19 finished products examined, 14 contained flavors and 13 additives. Only two had no additives or flavors. Schwartau says that the price premium is also accompanied by a discount on the health value. "We sell standard tastes instead of variety - and for a lot of money."

The story of the quick kitchen

1852: Dried meat extract existed in England as early as the 17th century. However, the German chemist Justus von Liebig was the first to produce the deep brown paste on a large scale. The university professor's request was quite noble: the meat extract should be a valuable nutrient for the poorer population. But it was ultimately too expensive to manufacture for that.

1909: With the "Maggi cube" A good 60 years later, the eponymous Swiss manufacturer brought the first stock cube onto the market, which was not made from animals, but from plants. Because it was significantly cheaper to produce, it was quick to take a stand against the "Liebig dice". In its variants, it is still a successful product today.

1955: The first fish sticks were sold in the UK. From the beginning of the 1960s, the snacks cut out of frozen fish platters quickly conquered the German market. To this day, the chopsticks sizzle constantly in our pans in this country. On average, every German eats 24 a year.

1958: Ravioli in tomato sauce The canned pasta dish ended up in German storage cupboards as the first pasta dish. The Maggi product was a response to the growing Italian fever of German holidaymakers and is still one of the best-selling ready-made meals to this day. The tin cans enjoy cult status. On camping holidays, young people and students still fall for the dumplings filled with pork and breadcrumbs. Even TV chef Tim Mälzer is an avowed fan.

1961: When mom Mirácoli conjures up on the stove, then there's spaghetti with tomato sauce for the youngsters. The semi-finished meal - the sauce paste must be mixed with a spice mixture and water - is now offered in different flavors. Also included in the pack: pasta and pamesello. The artificial name for the cheese is supposed to be reminiscent of Parmesan. The real Italian classic is not included.

1966: The Frozen pizza