food to go

Snacking and breakfast on the go are a trend that you can capitalise on – so long as you stock the right products, says Joseph Lee.

With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s no surprise that food-to-go is one of the fastest growing categories, as people grab more and more meals on the run.

The category was worth £16.1bn 
last year, and with favourable economic conditions, IGD researchers estimate that it could reach £21.7bn by 2021.

People are willing to pay more for convenience: research shows that food to go shoppers in convenience stores spend an extra 43% compared to other consumers.

Industry experts say that getting a share of that spending depends on offering more than just the same old sandwiches: consumers are looking for breakfast options, new snacking choices and healthy foods which they can eat on the go.

Make the most of the breakfast opportunity

The morning rush means there’s less time to linger over breakfast, and that’s been driving the growth of on-the-go breakfast foods.

According to bakery supplier Lantmännen Unibake UK, the market is growing by 5.8% year on year. But there’s still huge room for growth, with only 1.1% of all breakfasts eaten on the go at the moment.

Shoppers are more likely to be buying breakfast on the go because they’re on the way to work, so handheld products are essential, says Lisa Lewis, Lantmännen Unibake’s marketing manager.

Work journeys are the reason for 16% of breakfast on the go purchases, compared to 10% in the overall food to go market:

“Consumers have shown a willingness to spend more on food to go, with average breakfast spend rising last year,” Lewis says. “With this set to continue, wholesalers should recommend that outlets try serving pastries in grab bags to encourage busy consumers to purchase a premium pastry on their way to work.”

She adds that point of sale material can help to drive impulse sales for hungry commuters, with marketing prompts such as ‘great with coffee’, ‘a breakfast treat’, ‘this week’s special’ or ‘freshly baked’.

Inspire customers with new snacks

More than half of all food to go purchases are snacks, and feeling peckish drives 34.8 visits to stores per person every year. For 71% of us, snacking is something we do at least once a day.

So making sure that you have the right snack products for the crucial mid-morning and afternoon consumption areas is crucial to capture a slice of the £31bn market.
Manufacturers are aiming to keep that market buoyant with new flavours and formats. In the savoury market, Kerry Foods is aiming to encourage adults to snack on cheese.
Its new product, GoGo’s, offers a combination of chunks of cheese and other small bites to offer surprising combinations of tastes and textures, such as roasted edamame beans, chilli and lime peas and dark chocolate-covered coffee beans.

The products will emphasise the nutritional benefits of the combinations, following research which shows that 27% of consumers are willing to pay more for snacks with positive nutritional value.

“We know that many adults are looking for tasty snacks that make them feel good about what they are eating and that’s what we reflected in our GoGo’s innovation,” says Amanda Ryan, senior brand manager at Kerry Foods.

Meanwhile, Lantmännen Unibake is expanding its range of handheld sweet pastries, to tempt consumers looking for ‘elevenses’ or an afternoon pick-me-up. Among its new offerings is an on-trend Portuguese custard tart. This light, crisp pastry case with a sweet egg custard filling is an easy grab-and-go treat.

“Snacking is the biggest part of the food to go market, accounting for 52% of food to go visits, as time-pressed consumers look for quick and easy-to-eat options that provide maximum convenience,” says Lewis.

Offer a healthy selection

While customers are eating on the move more often, they are more concerned about health and nutrition than ever.

Research by Nielsen Homescan last year found that 40% of consumers were looking to reduce their intake of processed foods, and 29% said they were seeking out healthy snack options.

This health trend has helped Natural Balance Foods seize the top spot among single-pack cereal bars with its all-natural Nakd range, which is growing at 12% a year.

The company is expanding its range with new high protein products such as Trek Protein Energy Bars and Protein Flapjacks.

“There’s been a much greater focus on the role protein plays in our diets, alongside more general interest in health and fitness trends,” says Marina Love, marketing director of Natural Balance Foods.

Changing ideas about good nutrition has also opened up new opportunities for snacks such as meat and cheese, now seen as a high-protein alternative to sugary or carbohydrate-heavy foods.

Cathedral City has launched a cereal bar-sized 30g snack pack of cheese to capitalise on the trend.

And meat snacks, such as Kerry Foods’ Fire & Smoke snack pots of grilled chicken, are growing at 13% a year.

“The increased shopper focus on health and wellbeing has led to a demand for protein-rich solutions across multiple occasions, from breakfast to on the go snacking, providing a huge opportunity for retailers to tap into,” says Lauren Innes, Fire & Smoke brand manager at Kerry Foods.

Drive sales with promotions and POS

Food to go is naturally impulsive, so manufacturers say that getting display and promotions right are key to driving sales.

Wholesalers can encourage retailers to offer meal deals to drive sales of sandwiches and crisps and increase overall spending, says KP Snacks. Half of shoppers are prepared to spend £3.50 or more on a lunch deal.

“Shoppers buying a meal deal spend twice as much per store visit,” says Andy Riddle, sales director at KP Snacks.

Offering in-store tasting can also boost sales of bakery products, Lantmännen Unibake’s Lewis suggests. Placing freshly baked goods at the front of the store and alongside coffee machines can help to create impulse sales.


Mark Broad“It’s chips and burgers all the way, plus fish and chips – the classics. We do snacks, sandwiches and baguettes, and they do pretty well as takeaway items, along with biscuits and cakes. We’re on the promenade, so what people come to the seaside for is a Mr Whippy ice cream!”

Mark Broad, Greensward Café, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

Julie Duhra“With Subway up the road, Gregg’s down the road and Lidl nearby, I’d rather get pre-packed sandwiches and pre-packed sausage rolls, make a decent profit on those, and have a longer shelf-life than make stuff. My £1 sandwiches are the favourites. Workmen across the road will buy two or three instead of just one.”

Julie Duhra, Jule’s Premier Convenience Store, Telford, Shropshire

Ash Patel“We do food to go on the bakery side: pastries and croissants, french sticks and all that. We generally do quite well over the weekend. We try to do things differently compared to others in the area. We’ve got a lot of local stores, but they try to do cheap and cheerful products.”

Ash Patel, Gerhold Fine Food & News, London


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