Five big changes for food-to-go market in 2018 says IGD

15th January 2018

Positioning, displays, locations and menus all set for change says IGD

The UK’s food-to-go sector is due to see a number of innovations during 2018, according to an IGD report. The research group says that five trends in particular will impact during the year, including a change in positioning.

“Many of the concepts we’re seeing from across the world where food-to-go is growing are underpinned by healthy positioning,” says IGD head of food-to-go Gavin Rothwell. “The likes of Sweetgreen in the US, Cedele in Singapore, Chopped in Ireland, Exki in Belgium, Cojean in France and a number of examples in the UK are proof of the increasing role health is playing in products that are eaten on the go.”

Rothwell says that healthier options will become more widely available, citing further examples such as Pret a Manger’s vegetarian ranges and branches. “Looking forward, we see more opportunities for development, with UK shoppers continuing to tell us that they would like a wider range of both vegetarian and free-from ranges in the food-to-go stores they visit. IGD data shows that nearly a third (30%) of food-to-go consumers are looking for more vegetarian options, 22% for more dairy-free choices and 20% for a larger gluten-free range.”

Further changes are expected as brands seek to convey a more appealing balance of function and emotion. “What many food-to-go specialists do well is create emotional engagement with shoppers. The experience is based on the quality of the product, but is determined by a widening array of factors, including product display, in-store décor, customer service and more. We’ve seen some great experimentation around this from retailers over the past year – Albert Heijn’s new counter-based bakery/deli concept in the Netherlands is a great example. Similarly, many of the stores we’ve seen in Ireland also display these qualities. Looking ahead to 2018 we expect more retailers across more markets to follow this path, particularly through urban stores with a focus on convenience,” says Rothwell.

Food-to-go operators are also expected to change and expand the reasons they offer for customers to visit. “Waitrose spoke in late 2017 about a shift away from three fixed meals per day to four,” says Rothwell. “This suggested change underpins a wider adjustment in how we eat food, with more focus on fitting food around our lifestyles, rather than vice versa. With this in mind, we’ve witnessed the expansion of gym and protein boxes at several food-to-go specialists in the past year, and we’d expect both niche and mainstream operators alike to become more focused on this in 2018.”

Further expansion of locations is expected, with growth particularly at travel hubs. Experimentation is expected too, with a branded food-to-go presence expected in workplaces, fitness centres, sports stadiums, and festivals.

Finally, food-to-go brands could develop new and unexpected partnerships this year. “Businesses are increasingly looking for like-minded partners to enable them to develop in food-to-go. In the UK, for example, fit food specialist Crussh is collaborating with Sainsbury’s and Debenhams, while Benugo is working with John Lewis and EAT has recently entered an agreement with Compass and Debenhams. Italian restaurant chain Zizzi has also just opened its first pizza counter at Sainsbury’s," says Rothwell.

The IGD expects more such partnerships to be established.