Competitor Strategies in Cooking Ingredients and Meals

April 2024

The value of the cooking ingredients and meals industry neared USD500 billion in 2023, with Kraft Heinz, Unilever and Nestlé continuing their lead. This report dives into their key strategies within the industry. It also explores how the wider competitive landscape is leveraging key trends to innovate and stay top of mind in their respective categories and markets.

USD 1,325
Request More Information


This report comes in PPT.

Key Findings

The top three leaders remain, though Unilever unseats Nestlé

Kraft Heinz, Unilever and Nestlé retain their leadership of the cooking ingredients and meals industry globally. However, second position was swapped from Nestlé to Unilever in 2023, benefiting from relatively better performance of sauces, dips and condiments compared to meals and soups.

Legacy/core/power brands continue to be the key strategy for large players

Unilever’s Knorr and Hellmann’s have the advantage of being among the company’s Power 30 brands. Similarly, Maggi was Nestlé’s key growth driver, though the company faced setbacks in the meals market. Other leading companies are also divesting low-performing brands and expanding to fast-growing categories such as within meals and soups.

Strategies of the top three focus on taste, convenience, health and nutrition, and lifestyle adaptation

Major companies have approached cooking and eating from polar ends, ranging between helping consumers prepare delicious meals from scratch, and providing instant meal solutions. Key focus areas, therefore, are in empowering consumers to prepare tasty food, and improving portfolios to ensure greater convenience, a more effective health and wellness positioning, and successful integration with various lifestyle choices.

The wider market sees a surge in plant-based, convenient solutions and premium offerings

Across the cooking ingredients and meals industry globally, there has been a trend towards introducing more plant-based varieties, expanding from dairy and meats. At the same time, escalating demands for convenience have led to a focus on e-commerce and meal kit formats. Players also try to buck the economy-led trend towards trading down with value-added solutions.



Key findings
The global market approaches half a trillion US dollars in 2023
Owning diverse but effective brands will help companies navigate the fragmented landscape
The top three see a reshuffle, as Unilever overtakes Nestlé for second place
Most of the leading brands draw huge business from cooking ingredients and meals
Market fragmentation weakens the growth of leading players, except HelloFresh and Adani
Limited geographical footprint might sow disadvantages for the long run
A wide category footprint enables leading players to survive industry headwinds
2023 sees continued focus on legacy brands
Kraft Heinz: Maximises opportunities in meals and cooking
Kraft Heinz centres its innovation around its growth pillars
Unilever: Rising prices fuel the growth of its Power 30 brands, Knorr and Hellmann’s
Unilever’s focus on health and nutrition is diverse
Nestlé: Efforts made to balance out struggling categories
Nestlé leverages its strength in meals to adapt to evolving eating occasions
Three key trends that will drive competitor strategies
Key functional positioning and fortification remain the standard for edible oils
Vegan and plant-based among the leaders of retail sales growth since 2019
Brands focus on adding plant-based options to existing portfolios
Both emerging and incumbent brands are betting on diet and health claims
Retail e-commerce continues to eat into the share of modern retailers
The strategies of meal kit brands are shaped by demand for convenience
Brands seek to gain growth from prepared, microwaveable meals
Convenient solutions for local palates and lifestyles
New product launches aim to provide consumers with a culinary experience
Brands must ready themselves for a slower market in future
Company rankings expected to reshuffle by 2028, though the top three remain
How the key trends today will shape competitor strategies tomorrow


If you purchase a report that is updated in the next 60 days, we will send you the new edition and data extraction Free!