Customers seeking more from stores, firms say
Food to go is a key component of many a retailer’s business, with an attractive offer having the potential to drive footfall and enhance a store’s reputation.
As the hot category of the moment, getting food to go right is a major priority for many retailers, and firms behind some of the top brands in the category have weighed in with their views on how to create a food-to-go offer that’s a step ahead of the competition.
Ian Vass, category controller at Kerry Foods, highlighted the changing nature of the food-to-go category, noting that eating habits are shifting among consumers.
“The on-the-go category is continually evolving to cater for those shoppers who are increasingly looking for healthier options on the move,” he said.
“With more than 70% of consumers regularly missing one meal a day, and many preferring to graze little and often, retailers have a huge opportunity to capitalise on the fast evolving food on the go occasion.”
With more and more consumers seemingly adopting a fast paced lifestyle, there’s plenty of opportunity to be found in food to go, and Andrew Merchant, category shopper and customer activation controller at KP Snacks, reckons lunchtime provides retailers with a real chance to shine.
“Over the last year there have been 514m lunchbox occasions in the UK, with 69% of these being consumed by adults versus 31% consumed by children,” he said.
At lunchtime, sandwiches are king according to Merchant, but that doesn’t mean retailers shouldn’t explore other options as consumers seem to be seeking variety when packing a lunch for themselves.
“The carried out lunch occasion is much more likely to feature portable items such as fruit, crisps and yogurt. Latest data shows that 26% of lunchboxes contain crisps or other snacks such as popcorn, nuts and baked snacks,” he said.
62% of shoppers want three items in the lunchtime meal deal, with 29% specifically after a better choice of snacks.
To fully capitalise on the opportunities lunchtime provides, Merchant suggested retailers pay attention to their meal deal, creating an offer that provides both choice and value.
“Our insights show that 62% of shoppers want three items in the lunchtime meal deal, with 29% specifically after a better choice of snacks and 15% wanting the option of healthier snack alternatives.
“Research suggests that quality, well-planned meal deals can unlock further sales potential for this occasion with half of all shoppers prepared to spend £3.50 or more at a time,” he said.
Rachel Shoosmith, marketing manager at Lantmannen Unibake UK, suggested retailers might look to breakfast as an area ripe for exploitation.
“Breakfast is seeing the strongest growth for share of visits of all day parts, increasing from 14.7% to 15.6% of all visits in the total eating-out market, making it the perfect opportunity for independent retailers to target as an entry into food to go,” she said.
The advantage of stocking breakfast-friendly items doesn’t end with croissant sales either, according to Shoosmith, who reckons baked goods can also be a key driver of incremental sales.
“Conveniently placing freshly-baked pastries at the front of store and alongside coffee machines can help increase sales, as customers are tempted by the smell of fresh baking as well as the visually enticing selection of bakery products,” she said.
The advantages of offering a variety of food-to-go products were also highlighteed by Michael Holton, brand and marketing manager at Wall’s Pastry and Pork Farms.
Holton reckons there’s been an increase in demand for “multifarious options in food to go”.
“Traditionally it has been sandwiches and crisps that dominated the area, but consumers are now demanding more product choice, with demand for higher protein foods at lunch, more unusual flavours and substantial food options as an alternative to sandwiches and lighter bites for grazing throughout the day,” said Holton.
“In the last few years consumers have shown that they want a change in the traditional food-to-go products. Key things being demanded are variety, interesting taste options and different pack sizes.”
To stay on top of the demand for variety, Holton encouraged retailers to stay abreast of changes in food to go.
“Retailers need to keep aware of the market research-based NPD being driven by major manufacturers to cater for the changes in buying behaviour and the demand for variety across shopper missions and flavours,” he said.
One trend in particular which retailers may do well to cater for is the increase in demand for vegan and vegetarian options, being driven by an uptick in the number of customers adopting such diets.
Isla Owen, senior marketing manager at Adelie Foods reckons providing food-to-go options is a smart way for retailers to raise their game.
Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming more common than ever, with 12% of the UK population now following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
“Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming more common than ever, with approximately 12% of the UK population now following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
“A high proportion of these are aged 16-24, of which 71% buy food on the move at least once a week, so it’s a vital market for convenience retailers to cater for.”
It’s not just the ingredients in a food-to-go brand that can turn a customer on or off a SKU, Owen also suggested nutritional content is high on the agenda for consumers.
“We’ve noticed that consumers are starting to care much more about the nutritional value of their food than ever before.
“Our chilled Urban eat ‘Eat Better’ range is packed with nutritious ingredients and caters for a variety of special dietary requirements, including gluten free, high protein, high in omega 3, high fibre etc,” she said.