While many markets struggle with the sluggish economy, others thrive. Market researcher Mintel, Chicago, said it has reviewed and re-forcasted its research reports from the past two years, identifying which food and drink markets are actually being improved by recessionary woes. Among the top five categories: frozen meals and prepared side dishes. The others: breads, sweet spreads and coffee.

"Over the past year, we've seen people trying to save money on food by either dining out less, cutting supermarket bills, or both. More people cook at home now but they still want healthy, convenient, tasty food and drink for their dollar," says Bill Patterson, a Mintel senior analyst. "As consumers spend less and stay in more, certain food markets are benefiting. These recession-proof -- or rather recession-fueled -- industries are destined to do well throughout the economic downturn, but it will be interesting to track their sales as the nation recovers."

Here's what Mintel said about...

...Frozen meals: "Convenient, available in family-sized servings, filling and often inexpensive, frozen meals will undoubtedly benefit from the recession. Mintel expects a total sales increase of 4.5%, a jump from its original -0.3% expectation."

...Side dishes: "More people are cooking at home but small conveniences like ready-prepared side dishes aren't out of the question for many families. Mintel only expected the side dish market to grow 2.3% in 2008, but in fact, it grew more than 5%, driven by increased sales of basic comfort foods such as mac and cheese."