Guest article

IGD: Top five food-to-go trends 2017

Tossed and Pret are now present in motorway services. Pic: Tossed

With food-to-go taking a bigger bite of grocery markets around the world, Gavin Rothwell, senior retail insight manager at grocery research organization IGD, identifies the top five trends he believes will shape this sector in the future.

1. The rise and rise of health and wellness

Shoppers are increasingly aware of health and wellness, and food-to-go operators are expanding the variety of flavors and products available to meet this demand. Foods that support active lifestyles and tick the box for dietary needs are performing well, while wearable technology and apps are helping shoppers to better understand the nutritional and calorific value of what they consume. 

UK food-to-go shoppers are especially interested in products that suit particular diets, with 34% looking for a larger range of vegetarian products, 25% more dairy-free products and 23% seeking more vegan or gluten-free options (IGD ShopperVista, Q3 2016, 1,124 GB food-to-go shoppers).

2. Targeting new locations

Many food-to-go specialists are now expanding to reach new types of shopper. For example, both Tossed and Pret are now present in motorway services, while Subway and Greggs are expanding across petrol forecourts, to target the on-the-go shopper. 

Other operators, such as Leon and Tortilla, are opening stores outside London for the first time, to meet growing appetite for food-to-go outside the capital.

3. An increased focus on ‘alternative missions’

By ‘alternative missions’, we mean food-to-go occasions beyond the classic options of coffee or lunch. Although many retailers and specialists are focusing their efforts on breakfast, this is a relatively small market and spend per trip can be quite modest. We’re expecting to see a broader focus on alternative missions at different times of day – some of this might be for evening meals, but there may be opportunities at other times of day, for example a post-work snack or post-gym energy boost.

Snacking provides a great opportunity for food-to-go operators. Almost half (45%) of UK adults have bought a snack on-the-go in the last month (IGD ShopperVista, May 2016, 2,000 UK shoppers), so the size of the prize is huge.

4. Further integration of technology

Almost all shoppers (92%) think speed and efficiency of service is an important driver of deciding where to shop for food and drink (IGD ShopperVista, Q3 2016, 1,124 GB good-to-go shoppers), so we expect technology to play an even bigger role in food-to-go in the future. Outlets such as San Francisco's Eatsa and London's Inamo have completely transferred customers' entire ordering experience to in-store tablets, and last year Starbucks introduced a remote ordering app – a technology we expect to grow in popularity. US salad specialist Sweetgreen is going one step further, converting most of its stores to be cashless. 

5. More fusion between retail and food-to-go concepts

Grocery retailers across the world are looking at how they can better cater for the food-to-go opportunity. For the likes of Whole Foods Market and Wegmans in the US, it's already a core part of their offer. However, other super and hypermarket retailers, such as Carrefour with its Bon App shop-in-shop format, are also focusing more on this area.

For smaller retail formats, Irish retailers are setting a great example in this field. For example, Musgrave's Centra has been extremely progressive in how it delivers a compelling food-to-go offer, a convenience store and an enticing eat-in area in one single space. We expect more of this to follow in 2017 and beyond, as more retailers look to capture a share of the growing food-to-go opportunity.

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