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Food-to-go segment on the move

IGD shared insights about this growing market segment at SIAL in Montreal

The food-to-go market is on the rise, and as consumers become more sophisticated in their tastes and demands, the opportunity to cash in on changing food consumption habits is growing along with it.

Gavin Rothwell, senior retail insights manager at IGD, highlighted statistics and insights from the U.K.'s food-to-go (ready-to-serve portioned food) market as part of a presentation during SIAL in Montreal earlier this month.

Though the research was conducted in the U.K., Rothwell said food-to-go is a segment that will soon be everywhere. "We have seen a huge shift over the last few years in a number of different markets in terms of more different types of operators entering this space," he said.

According to IGD research, the average food-to-go shopper conducts more than 300 food-to-go missions a year. "That's a great opportunity to interact with those consumers if you're a retailer or a food-to-go specialist," said Rothwell. "There's also a big cash opportunity and lots of opportunity to drive loyalty in there as well, in a space we see becoming increasingly competitive."

The current annual growth rate of the food-to-go market in the U.K. is 6% and it's expected to continue growing at that rate each year for the next five years, he said. Compare that to the grocery market, which is growing 2% to 3% each year, and it becomes clear to see why more retailers are chasing the food-to-go opportunity.

Grocery store chains are devoting more and more space to food-to-go. Many are expanding their own ranges, as well as creating partnerships to introduce more diverse in-store experiences, such as sushi bars and juice bars.

When developing a strategy, noted Rothwell, it's important to understand how consumers are shopping food-to-go and on what eating occasions. IGD identified these five areas: breakfast, drink, lunch, leisure and snack, the latter of which has shown the strongest growth over the last 12 months.

It's equally important to look at the missions and times of day at which people are purchasing and consuming food, and to provide them with the appropriate options.

"Traditionally we think of a landscape in which meals dictated lifestyles and now it's more lifestyles dictating when meals are taken," Rothwell said, using Waitrose as an example of a grocer that has acknowledged shifts in consumption habits. The British supermarket chain has noticed a shift from three fixed meals per day to four. With changes like this to the mealtime routine, the segment is also seeing an increase in such products as grab-and-go snack boxes. Not everybody wants a big lunch and more people are looking for between-meal options, he explained.

During his presentation, Rothwell offered specific advice on how to embrace a food-to-go strategy. Here are a few of his tips:

  • Look at what you're famous for and use that to assess your food-to-go opportunity.

  • Understand the wider role of food for your key customer groups: where else do they buy food? What will be their benchmarks?

  • Break down your targeted proposition into distinct elements and work out how best to fulfill each for your customer: in-house, with an established branded partner, or developing a new brand with a third party.




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