convenience food

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Two microwave ready meals from the supermarket
Frozen ready-made meal warmed up in a microwave oven : Currywurst with French fries

Ready meals are mostly meals produced by companies in the food industry for warm consumption, the meat components of which (if included) are usually pre-cooked. Ready meals are characterized by the fact that they are edible meals that only need to be heated. As a rule, it is a main course and side dishes or one-component meals such as pizza, stew, soup, etc.


A pioneer of ready meals was Gerry Thomas , who invented a frozen three-component menu for the Swanson company in the USA in 1954 . It only needed to be heated in the oven to prepare. Nothing had to be added. Until the introduction of the microwave, this first-generation ready-to-eat meal was packaged in characteristic aluminum trays. Under the name TV-Dinner, the product became a resounding success in its first year. Instead of the expected 5,000 copies, 10 million units were sold. In 1955, CA Swanson & Sons was taken over by the Campbell Soup Company .

The “ Ravioli in Tomato Sauce ” from Maggi , filled with breadcrumbs and pork, were the first ready-to-eat pasta meal in Germany in 1958 - a reaction to the beginning of mass tourism , in which Italy was one of the main destinations. Since many households did not have a refrigerator at the time, Maggi ravioli were offered in tins .

In a more general sense, the term was ready meal used in the first half of the 20th century, such as the First World War for "Art Jam" from Kürbismus ( "Kürbispowidl" as a substitute for Powidl ) or in the Second World War for boarding the Wehrmacht with cans .


In general, ready meals should completely relieve the consumer of the preparation - apart from the heating process. All ingredients (typically, water may have to be added) are already mixed by the manufacturer. This comes up against quality and taste limits: While frozen products only have to be frozen quickly, storing them together - for example pasta with sauce in a tin can - leads to undesirable reactions between the ingredients.

In the case of semi-finished or semi-finished meals, on the other hand, the ingredients are already cut up and packaged in portions. The consumer must mix the ingredients according to the instructions and, if necessary, add other ingredients that are not included for practical reasons (e.g. butter) or are not suitable for longer storage (e.g. minced meat). On the one hand, this results in a significantly higher taste requirement than with pure ready-made meals, but the consumer has to procure more ingredients himself and at least have basic kitchen-technical skills.

Partially prepared meals

French advertisement for Justus von Liebig's meat extract
Pea sausage with portion piece

Partially prepared meals still require the addition of components such as B. water. The edible individual components of meals are also part of the semi-finished meals. Early examples of semi-finished meals were Justus von Liebig's meat extract from 1852 or the pea sausage from Berlin cook Johann Heinrich Grüneberg from 1867. In England there was a dried meat extract in cube form for travelers around 100 years earlier, the “portable soup” ( portable soup ) was called. However, it was not produced commercially, but in private households. A cookbook by Hannah Glasse from 1747 contains two recipes for this.


Must be distinguished from ready meals ( English ready to eat meal is) the now common in the German concept of convenience or convenience food . Convenience in connection with food simply describes a general trend to make work easier in food preparation, both in the home and in the catering sector. Depending on the manufacturer, very different degrees of processing and preparation are referred to as convenience . There is no common understanding of this. Depending on the point of view, both the ready meal and a raw but filleted fish fillet or cheese that has already been sliced ​​are described by the providers as convenient .

Reasons for the demand for ready meals

Ready meals that only have to be heated relieve the consumer of essential and sometimes time-consuming preparation steps. The time saved by using “fix products” and other ready-made products, on the other hand, is sometimes considerably lower than is often assumed, since time-consuming work steps such as frying minced meat or peeling onions are still required.

The main reasons for the increasing demand for finished products are social changes:

  • Sociodemographic trends, e.g. B. an increasing number of single and single parent households as well as a higher employment rate of mothers
  • Lack of cooking skills that the convenience food manufacturers use to build a relationship of dependency
  • Change in values , e.g. B. A higher level of leisure time orientation and the decline in fixed meal times and meal structures in the family
  • Lack of time, e.g. B. by the increasing pressure to be "flexible" with the working hours
  • Striving for comfort
  • The trend away from fixed family meal times towards individual, “situational” meals for family members.

The catering industry uses ready-made food mainly for cost reasons:

  • Rationalization , the use of finished products lowers personnel and material costs
  • Standardization makes process flows and thus (labor) costs plannable
  • Variety of offers : by accepting essential processing steps, restaurateurs can offer a wider range of dishes

Criticism of ready meals

From a medical point of view, the high salt content in ready meals is particularly criticized. Above all, these would contribute significantly to the development of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.

The risk of death may increase through the consumption of ready-made meals: In a cohort study published in early 2019 , which was carried out on 44,551 French adults aged 45 and over, the consumption of highly processed ready-made meals - with an increase of 10% - was statistically significant with a 14% higher Risk of total mortality associated. Further prospective studies are needed to prove whether these results are really due to the consumption of ready meals or whether other reasons could be the cause of the increased mortality . In two further prospective cohort studies it is shown that the amount of consumption of highly processed ready meals can be used as a biomarker for an unhealthy diet and an unfavorable lifestyle. The more of it is eaten, the more likely it is that cancer will develop .


  • Sielaff, Heinz (Hrsg.): Technology of canning production. 1st edition. Behr's Verlag, Hamburg 1996, ISBN 3-86022-283-X / Chapter 7.2 Ready meals , pp. 182-204

Web links

Wiktionary: ready meal  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. They were the revolution from the can: 60 years ago the first Maggi ravioli rolled off the production line in Singen , Südkurier on May 14, 2018.
  2. The Use of Pumpkins. In:  Vorarlberger Landes-Zeitung , August 30, 1918, p. 4 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / vlz
  3. What do Rommel's soldiers eat? In:  Tages-Post , October 31, 1942, p. 7 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / tpt
  4. ^ A Lady ( Hannah Glasse ): The Art of Cookery . Made plain and easy. 1st edition. Self-published, London 1747, 6 (Of Soops and Broths.), Pp. 128 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  5. ^ Alan Davidson: The Oxford Companion to Food . 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2006, ISBN 0-19-280681-5 , Portable soup, pp. 625 .
  6. Preferably done and done ( Memento from March 19, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ German Hypertension League : Too much salt in finished products
  8. Laure Schnabel, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, Benjamin Allès, Mathilde Touvier, Bernard Srour, Serge Hercberg, Camille Buscail, Chantal Julia: Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France. In: JAMA Internal Medicine . , doi: 10.1001 / jamainternmed.2018.7289 .
  9. Thomas Müller: Information from two studies: Do ready meals shorten life? In: . June 7, 2019, accessed June 11, 2019 .
  10. Bernard Srour, Léopold K Fezeu et al. a .: Ultra-processed food intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective cohort study (NutriNet-Santé). In: BMJ. , P. L1451, doi: 10.1136 / bmj.l1451 .
  11. Anaïs Rico-Campà, Miguel A Martínez-González u. a .: Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. In: BMJ. , P. L1949, doi: 10.1136 / bmj.l1949 .