Food to go – catch it if you can

I recently attended the MCA Insight Food to Go Conference to hear from some inspirational speakers about the latest trends, issues and opps facing the sector. MCA provides the eating and drinking-out market with news, intelligence and analysis with insightful reports and events throughout the year. Working with clients such as Premier Foods, Kerry Foods and PepsiCo at Cirkle, I knew it would be invaluable to help inform our clients’ campaign strategies.

The line-up included industry heavyweights such as Julian Metcalfe, co-founder of Pret a Manger and founder of Itsu; Hannah Squirrell, customer director of Greggs; Simon Burdess, Director of Foodservice at Waitrose and Gerry Ford, Founder and Chief Executive of Caffé Nero. All of these speakers touched upon the challenges they face – rising costs, rent prices and consumer confidence – but overall the outlook was positive with Metcalfe summarising: “I don’t think we should be concerned, people are still eating on the go”.

Food to go

And indeed they are. The Food to Go (FTG) sector is set to reach a value of £20.7bn in 2018 and it’s outperforming the wider eating out market. FTG is anticipated to grow 2.8% this year, with coffee shops, sandwich and bakery outlets and c-stores seeing strong sales in particular. MCA claims the sector will accelerate through healthier products, more affordable sustainability and tech-led convenience. Think bigger than self-service checkouts, the buzz around new checkout-free Amazon Go gives us a glimpse at the future, the perfect set up for shoppers on the go.

Throughout the conference, many of the speakers came back to the continuing blur between retail and foodservice when it comes to food to go. Consumers don’t think about whether they are purchasing from a supermarket or corner shop, or a restaurant or café, when looking for a food to enjoy on the go. This is evident when looking at some of the top 10 FTG brands: Tesco, McDonald’s, Subway, Sainsbury’s and Greggs. Representing the convenience sector, Jill Livesey – Managing Director at HIM (shopper research and insights company) – spoke about how difficult it can be for retailers to get their message across when shoppers spend under four minutes browsing for items. With 44% of shoppers saying they would rather use self-service tills, and 57% of UK adults active foodservice delivery users, it demonstrates the fast paced world we live in, which will only get faster and more tech driven. Look at the surge in popularity of voice assistants – almost everyone I know got an Alexa or Google Home for Christmas. We are becoming more and more reliant on this convenient technology.

We often talk about people leading busier lives so they want more convenient options and formats to enjoy on the go. Consumers are also spending less or looking to cut down on food and drink – but can this be attributed to this growing trend to eating on the go? If you’re enjoying food comfortably at home or in a restaurant, you’re happy to pay more for the privilege. But if you’re rushing meals between meetings, looking after the kids or socialising; you want good value. Once we understand this consumer behaviour and the real demand that is enabling the FTG market to expand at such an impressive pace, we’re more equipped with data-driven insight to drive our strategic B2B and consumer PR campaigns.

Vicki Baker
Account Director

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