Convenience food

Convenience food, also called tertiary processed food, is food that is commercially prepared (often through processing) to optimise ease of consumption. Such food is usually ready to eat without further preparation. It may also be easily portable, have a long shelf life, or offer a combination of such convenient traits. Although restaurant meals meet this definition, the term is seldom applied to them. Convenience foods include ready-to-eat dry products, frozen foods such as TV dinners, shelf-stable foods, prepared mixes such as cake mix, and snack foods.

A rack of convenience snack foods, including chips (crisps in Great Britain)

Bread, cheese, salted food and other prepared foods have been sold for thousands of years. Other types of food were developed with improvements in food technology. Types of convenience foods can vary by country and geographic region. Some convenience foods have received criticism due to concerns about nutritional content and how their packaging may increase solid waste in landfills. Various methods are used to reduce the unhealthy aspects of commercially produced food and fight childhood obesity.

Convenience food is commercially prepared for ease of consumption.[1] Products designated as convenience food are often sold as hot, ready-to-eat dishes; as room-temperature, shelf-stable products; or as refrigerated or frozen food products that require minimal preparation (typically just heating).[2] Convenience foods have also been described as foods that have been created to "make them more appealing to the consumer."[3] Convenience foods and restaurants are similar in that they save time.[4] They differ in that restaurant food is ready to eat, whilst convenience food usually requires rudimentary preparation. Both typically cost more money and less time compared to home cooking from scratch.[4]


Throughout history, people have bought food from bakeries, creameries, butcher shops and other commercial processors to save time and effort. The Aztec people of Central Mexico utilized several convenience foods that required only adding water for preparation, which were used by travelers.[5] Cornmeal that was ground and dried, referred to as pinolli, was used by travelers as a convenience food in this manner.[5]

Canned food was developed in the 19th century, primarily for military use, and became more popular during World War I. The expansion of canning depended significantly upon the development of canneries for producing large quantities of cans very cheaply. Before the 1850s, making a can for food required a skilled tinsmith; afterwards, an unskilled laborer, operating a can-making machine, could produce 15 times as many cans each day.[6]

One of the earliest industrial-scale processed foods was meatpacking. After the invention of a system of refrigerator cars in 1878, animals could be raised, slaughtered, and butchered hundreds (later thousands) of miles or kilometers away from the consumer.[6]

Experience in World War II contributed to the development of frozen foods and the frozen food industry.[7] Modern convenience food saw its beginnings in the United States during the period that began after World War II.[8] Many of these products had their origins in military-developed foods designed for storage longevity and ease of preparation in the battle field. Following the war, several commercial food companies had leftover manufacturing facilities, and some of these companies created new freeze-dried and canned foods for home use.[9] Like many product introductions, not all were successful—convenience food staples such as fish sticks and canned peaches were counterbalanced by failures such as ham sticks and cheeseburgers-in-a-can.[10] However, this new focus on convenience foods and the use of technology in the kitchen alleviated labor that was traditionally carried out by women, and therefore meals that could be prepared quickly enabled women to exercise more control over their time.[11]

As of the 2010s due to increased preference for fresh, "natural", whole, and organic food and health concerns the acceptability of processed food to consumers in the United States was dropping and the reputation of major packaged food brands had been damaged. Firms responded by offering "healthier" formulations and acquisition of brands with better reputations.[12]


Convenience foods can include products such as candy; beverages such as soft drinks, juices and milk; nuts, fruits and vegetables in fresh or preserved states; processed meats and cheeses; and canned products such as soups and pasta dishes. Additional convenience foods include frozen pizza,[13] chips[3] such as potato chips (known in Britain as crisps),[13] pretzels,[3] and cookies.[13]

These products are often sold in portion-controlled, single-serving packaging designed for portability.[14][15]

Packaged mixes

A cake mix

Gristmills have produced flour for baking for thousands of years. In more recent times flour has been sold with other ingredients mixed in, as have other products ready to cook. Packaged mixes are convenience foods[16] which typically require some preparation and cooking either in the oven or on the stove top.

Packaged baked goods mixes typically use chemical leaveners (commonly referred to as baking powder[17]), for a quick, reliable result, avoiding the requirement for time-consuming skilled labor and the climate control needed for traditional yeast breads. These packaged mixes produce a type of quickbread.

Examples include cake mixes,[18] macaroni and cheese,[19] brownie mixes,[20] and gravy mixes.[21] Some packaged mixes may have a high saturated fat content.[22]

By country

Onigiri at a convenience store in Kamakura, Japan

In 2007, it was noted in the book Australia's food & nutrition 2012 that a distinct increase in convenience food consumption had been occurring in Australia.[23]

In the Republic of Ireland, breakfast rolls eaten by busy workers became a symbol of the Celtic Tiger economic boom.[24]

In Japan, onigiri (rice balls) are a popular convenience food[25] that dates for millennia — by the Heian period these were established enough to be mentioned in literature.[26][27] Additional Japanese convenience foods include prepared tofu (bean curd),[28] prepared packages of seafood[29] and instant ramen noodles.[30]

Canned tuna packed in oil is a convenience food in the Solomon Islands.[31]

In Russia, frozen pelmeni, a type of meat dumplings, adopted from Uralic peoples such as Komi, Mansi and Udmurts,[32] are known from at least the 18th century, and industrially produced and prepacked pelmeni are a staple of the supermarket freezer sections.

By region

In Western Africa, processed cassava flour that has been grated and dried is a popular convenience food.[33]


In some instances, retail sales of convenience foods may provide higher profit margins for food retailers compared to the profits attained from sales of the individual ingredients that are present in the convenience foods.[34]

A survey in 1984 attributed over one-third of funds spent by consumers for food in Britain to be for convenience food purchases.[35]

Environmental and health concerns

Refrigerated dinner, to be heated in a microwave oven.

Several groups have cited the environmental harm of single serve packaging due to the increased usage of plastics that contributes to solid waste in landfills.[36][37] Due to concerns about obesity and other health problems, some health organizations have criticized the high fat, sugar, salt, food preservatives and food additives that are present in some convenience foods.[14]

In most developed countries, 80% of consumed salt comes from industry-prepared food (5% come from natural salt; 15% comes from salt added during cooking or eating).[38] Health effects of salt concentrate on sodium and depend in part on how much is consumed. A single serving of many convenience foods contains a significant portion of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Manufacturers are concerned that if the taste of their product is not optimized with salt, it will not sell as well as competing products. Tests have shown that some popular packaged foods depend on significant amounts of salt for their palatability.[39]

Labeling, mitigation, and regulation

Many preservatives, salts, artificial colors and artificial flavorings are used in this highly processed frozen food item.

In response to the issues surrounding the healthfulness of convenience and restaurant foods, an initiative in the United States, spearheaded by Michelle Obama and her Let's Move! campaign, to reduce the unhealthy aspects of commercially produced food and fight childhood obesity, was unveiled by the White House in February 2010. Mrs. Obama has pushed the industry to cut back on sugars and salts found in many convenience foods, encouraging self-regulation over government intervention through laws and regulations.[40] Despite Mrs. Obama's stated preference on self-regulation, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it was looking into quantifying the guidelines into law while other groups and municipalities are seeking to add other preventative measures such as target taxes and levies onto these products.[41][42]

In response to the attention, in April 2010 a coalition of sixteen manufacturers all agreed to reduce salt levels in foods sold in the United States under a program based on a similar effort in the United Kingdom.[41] However, the initiative has met with resistance from some manufacturers, who claim that processed foods require the current high levels of salt to remain appetizing and to mask undesirable effects of food processing such as "warmed-over flavor".[39] The coalition expanded its mission in May 2010 by announcing that it intends to reduce the amount of calories in foods. By introducing lower calorie foods, changing product recipes and reducing portion sizes, the coalition stated that it expected to reduce the caloric content of foods by more than 1.5 trillion calories in total by 2012.[42]

Social inequality

As previously stated, convenience foods cover a variety of food groups and come in numerous forms. Thus, there are a variety of healthy and unhealthy convenience foods. Research such as the 2002 study by Kimberly Morland et al., have correlated inequalities between low-income communities and increased access to unhealthy convenience foods. This is mostly due to the destruction of decent grocery stores in urban areas.[43][44] Comparing low-income communities to more affluent communities, there are four times more supermarkets located in white communities than the black communities (commonly found in food deserts). As a result, the 2002 study concluded that with limited access to healthy food options in supermarkets, members within the low-income and minority communities have unequal access.[43] A 2010 study by Dharma E. Cortes et al. also found a connection between consumption of unhealthy convenience food and minority communities. Limited access to healthy food options has resulted in an increase in obesity amongst members in these communities.[45]

Many low-income families struggle with buying fresh fruits and vegetables and nutritional meals for their families because of the price of the products. These families are most often located in food deserts and fresh food is not readily available in their community. Thus, families resort to buying food that is high in fat, sugar, and salt because these highly processed options are inexpensive. These highly processed foods make up a significant portion of unhealthy convenience foods.[46]

See also


  1. Jean Anderson; Barbara Deskins (October 1995). The Nutrition Bible (1st ed.). William Morrow & Co. ISBN 978-0-688-11619-4.
  2. "Convenience Foods". Swiss Association for Nutrition. Health and Age Center. 8 May 2003. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  3. Chow, Ching Kuang (19 November 2007). Fatty Acids in Foods and their Health Implications, Third Edition. p. 376. ISBN 9781420006902. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  4. Ensminger 1994, p. 463.
  5. Keoke, Emory Dean; Porterfield, Kay Marie (2009). Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations - Emory Dean Keoke, Kay Marie Porterfield. p. 138. ISBN 9781438109909. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  6. Kawash, Samira (2013). Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Faber and Faber. pp. 46–48. ISBN 9780865477568.
  7. Ensminger 1994, p. 465.
  8. Gosse, Van; Moser, Richard R. (2008). The World the Sixties Made: Politics and Culture in Recent America. p. 150. ISBN 9781592138463. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  9. Rudolph, Thomas; Schlegelmilch, Bodo B.; Bauer, András; Franch, Josep; Meise, Jan Niklas (9 March 2012). Diversity in European Marketing: Text and Cases. p. 180. ISBN 9783834969767. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  10. Shapiro, Laura (29 March 2005). Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-303491-9.
  11. Maurer, Elizabeth (2017), How Highly Processed Foods Liberated 1950s Housewives, National Women's History Museum
  12. Hans Taparia and Pamela Koch (6 November 2015). "A Seismic Shift in How People Eat". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2015. The food movement over the past couple of decades has substantially altered consumer behavior and reshaped the competitive landscape.
  13. Rees, Jonathan (30 July 2005). Eating Properly - Jonathan Rees. ISBN 9781583405918. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  14. Rudolph, Thomas; Schlegelmilch, Bodo B.; Bauer, András; Franch, Josep; Meise, Jan Niklas (9 March 2012). Diversity in European Marketing: Text and Cases. p. 181. ISBN 9783834969767. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  15. Frewer, Lynn J.; Risvik, Einar; Schifferstein, Hendrik (21 September 2001). Food, People and Society: A European Perspective of Consumers' Food Choices. p. 333. ISBN 9783540415213. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  16. Vickie a. Vaclavik, Ph. D.; Marjorie m. Devine, Ph. D.; Marcia h. Pimentel, M. S. (7 June 2002). Dimensions of Food, Fifth Edition - Vickie A. Vaclavik, Ph.D., Marcia H. Pimentel, M.S., Marjorie M. Devine, Ph.D. ISBN 9781439832714. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  17. John Brodie, John Godber "Bakery Processes, Chemical Leavening Agents" in Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology 2001, John Wiley & Sons. doi:10.1002/0471238961.0308051303082114.a01.pub2
  18. Hartel, Richard W.; Hartel, Annakate (1 March 2009). Food bites [electronic resource]: the science of the foods we eat - Richard W. Hartel, AnnaKate Hartel. ISBN 9780387758459. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  19. Smith, Andrew F. (May 2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. ISBN 9780195307962. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  20. Mehaffy, Carolyn; Mehaffy, Bob (November 1995). Destination Mexico: Planning a Cruise to Mexico - Carolyn Mehaffy, Bob Mehaffy. ISBN 9780939837410. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  21. Bricklin, Mark (15 August 1994). Prevention Magazine's Nutrition Advisor: The Ultimate Guide to the Health-Boosting and Health-Harming Factors in Your Diet. ISBN 9780875962252. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  22. Cannon, Dr. Christopher P.; Vierck, Elizabeth; Beale, Lucy (5 December 2006). The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Anti-Inflammation Diet - Christopher Cannon, Elizabeth Vierck. ISBN 9781440696879. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  23. Welfare, Australian Institute of Health and (2012). Australia's food & nutrition 2012. p. 13. ISBN 9781742493237. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  24. McDonald, Brian (12 May 2008). "Top breakfast baguette rolls into Irish history". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  25. Wilk, Richard R. (2006). Fast Food, Slow Food: The Cultural Economy of the Global Food System. ISBN 9780759109155. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  26. Ikeda, Kikan; Shinji Kishigami; Ken Akiyama (1958). Koten Bungaku Taikei 19: Makura no Sōshi, Murasaki Shikibu Nikki. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten. p. 455. ISBN 978-4-00-060019-4.
  27. Hasegawa, Masaharu; Yūichirō Imanishi (1989). Shin Koten Bungaku Taikei 24: Tosa Nikki, Kagerō Nikki, Murasaki Shikibu Nikki, Sarashina Nikki. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten. p. 266. ISBN 978-4-00-240024-2.
  28. Ashkenazi, Michael; Jacob, Jeanne (26 October 2000). The Essence of Japanese Cuisine: An Essay on Food and Culture - Michael Ashkenazi, Jeanne Jacob. p. 55. ISBN 978-0812235661. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  29. Bergin, Anthony; Haward, Marcus G. (1996). Japan's Tuna Fishing Industry: A Setting Sun Or New Dawn? - Anthony Bergin, Marcus G. Haward. ISBN 9781560722410. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  30. Harlan, Jessica (30 August 2011). Ramen to the Rescue Cookbook: 120 Creative Recipes for Easy Meals Using Everyone's Favorite Pack of Noodles - Jessica Harlan. ISBN 9781612430041. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  31. Barclay, Kate (8 February 2008). A Japanese Joint Venture in the Pacific: Foreign bodies in tinned tuna - Kate Barclay. ISBN 9780203930908. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  32. Dal Dictionary on-line derives the etymology of pel'men' from pel'=ear and nan'=bread in Komi and Mansi (Vogul) languages. This may be why pelmeni are called uszka ("ears") in Poland.
  33. Osseo-Asare, Fran (2005). Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa - Fran Osseo-Asare. p. 30. ISBN 9780313324888. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  34. Freedman, Paul; Freedman, Professor Paul (2007). Food: The History of Taste. p. 350. ISBN 9780520254763. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  35. Offer, Avner (9 March 2006). The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950 - Avner Offer. p. 145. ISBN 9780198208532. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  36. "Talking about waste prevention". Waste Watch UK. Archived from the original on 15 September 2009. Retrieved 14 July 2009.
  37. "Food packaging waste a concern". Reuters. 14 February 2008. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 14 July 2009. Wasteful food packaging is among the fastest-growing environmental concerns for shoppers worldwide with New Zealanders most willing to cut back, a poll showed on Thursday.
  38. Delahaye, François (2013). "Should we eat less salt?". Archives of Cardiovascular Diseases. 106 (5): 324–332. doi:10.1016/j.acvd.2013.01.003. PMID 23769406.
  39. Michael Moss (29 May 2010). "The hard sell on salt". The New York Times.
  40. Sweet, Lynn (11 May 2010). "Michelle Obama Unveils Anti-Childhood Obesity Action Plan". Politics Daily. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  41. "16 Food Companies Agree to Reduce Salt". CBS News. Associated Press. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  42. Jalonick, Mary Clare (17 May 2010). "Food companies agree to remove 15 trillion calories from foods to reduce childhood obesity". Business News. Associated Press. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  43. Morland, Kimberly; Wing, Steve; Diez Roux, Ana; Poole, Charles (January 2002). "Neighborhood characteristics associated with the location of food stores and food service places" (PDF). American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 22 (1): 23–29. doi:10.1016/s0749-3797(01)00403-2. hdl:2027.42/56186. ISSN 0749-3797. PMID 11777675.
  44. Morland, K.; Wing, S.; Diez Roux, A. (2002). "The contextual effect of the local food environment on residents' diets: the atherosclerosis risk in communities study". American Journal of Public Health. 92 (11): 1761–7. doi:10.2105/ajph.92.11.1761. PMC 1447325. PMID 12406805.
  45. Cortés, Dharma E.; Millán-Ferro, Andreina; Schneider, Karen; Vega, Rodolfo R.; Caballero, A. Enrique (March 2013). "Food Purchasing Selection Among Low-Income, Spanish-Speaking Latinos". American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 44 (3): S267–S273. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.11.012. ISSN 0749-3797. PMID 23415192.
  46. Thompson, Sherwood (18 December 2014). "Food Justice: Social Injustice in Our Food Systems Contributes to Food Insecurity and Obesity". Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 331–334. ISBN 9781442216068.


Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.