Convenience in the US via the medium of ‘prepared’ can be very hit and miss. In salads I think the UK is stronger, though themes around ‘chopped’ salads and some key flavours that are pushing through that could get real traction in the UK. There is also a much greater level of comfort with protein and nuts.
In prepared vegetables I find the US more inspiring than the UK. For mass appeal lots of packaging formats are microwave ready. Plus they do use oven-ready vegetable roasting trays, as in the UK. The Little Potato Company, who are found in most major retailers, are great examples of this mass-appeal convenience. They are trays of miniature baked or microwaveable potatoes with different herbs and spice mixes, BBQ, garlic and parsley, and onion. Simple, and theoretically easy to produce at home without the mark-up, but well branded with consumer appeal.
Prepared veg is on a similar theme and trend to the UK, innovation-wise, from spiralised butternut squash to courgette and beetroot. Crinkle cut chips from butternut squash, sweet potato, jicama, beetroot and carrots all feature, as do cauliflower, broccoli or mixed vegetable ‘rice’. They have soup and base packs, as well as fajitas or grilling vegetables. They have some great mushroom innovation such as mixed chopped mushroom packs, perfect for my risotto. They also have stuffed mushrooms, including the brilliant Pizza Mushrooms which are a great and accessible family option.
I love the ready-to-roast heritage carrots – talk about making your meal look like a restaurant from the comfort of your own home. I’m not sure whether the UK ‘ready-to-cook’ technical guidance might get a bit twitchy about the stalks/micro, but not here. Also from a ‘restaurant presentation’ stance are the purées: cauliflower and zucchini. While my current audience (three years and 18 months), love the carrots, it honestly feels like a bit of a waste and that I may be risking raising an ‘overheard in Waitrose’ child: “Sebastian, put the papaya down...”
There are extremes of preparation that are beyond me – halved Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper (is it that hard?) or hollowed peppers for stuffing. Honestly, if I can be bothered to make stuffing, I can be bothered to empty a bell pepper. That said, perhaps you are currently critiquing me for bothering to buy four types of mushrooms pre-sliced.