The sale of supermarket takeaway has grown in the wake of soaring energy prices, with ready meals popular among both single pensioners and office workers who used to have lunch in restaurants.
While the Solaris grocery store in central Tallinn used to cater mainly to construction workers around lunchtime, almost half of those popping in to get some warm takeaway have been office workers in recent months. But supermarket takeaway also increasingly finds its way into the shopping carts of elderly customers.
"Since September, which is when energy prices really spiked, we saw a lot of single pensioners come in for a box of boiled rice and a cutlet that set them back €2 for dinner. That was something we had not seen before," said Virko Tugevus, head of production for the store.
At the same time, takeaway quantities have gotten smaller, with people preferring simpler and cheaper meals and those on sale. Pasta with minced meat is one popular example.
"The meal costs €4 per kilogram, while cooking the same dish for one at home, you would have to pay €3 for the meat alone," Tugevus remarked.
The fact that more grilled products that just need to be reheated were bought before Christmas is another sign to suggest cooking on an electric stove at home seems more expensive than buying ready meals.
Sale of preheated meat products is also up.
"We can see solid growth in packaged ready-made food, such as pasta carbonara, pilaf etc. Poultry, pork and other ready-to-use meat products have also seen notable growth. Even sandwiches and burgers are selling more," said Maris Kivi, head of marketing for the Maxima chain of supermarkets.
Sale of packaged takeaway has grown over 100 percent at Maxima, ready-made meat products are up 25 percent, burgers and sandwiches almost 20 percent.
Kivi said that while takeaway is the cheaper option for single people, cooking for a larger family is cheaper than buying ready meals for everyone.
"We are trying to keep the price of takeaway sensible to meet customer expectations in a situation where both raw material and packaging prices have grown. Let us also say that being labeled as on sale has little bearing on the popularity of ready meals," the Maxima representative remarked.
Kivi added that while Estonians are sensitive to food prices, people do not seem to be saving on New Year's Eve meals. While potato salad is expected to rule supreme on December 31, ready snacks, as well as herring and Baltic sprat sandwiches are also popular.
Editor: Merili Nael, Marcus Turovski