Consumers - what are the trends for food-to-go?

Four key trends to help you understand the consumer and the influences on their diet and health choices.

Consumer behaviour and trends are driving the UK food supply chain. To keep up-to-date on these we have the latest insight available from Hannah Clarke at Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). 

The UK food-to-go market* is forecast to reach a value of £21.2 billion in 2019, up 3% on 2018, outperforming the anticipated growth rate of the wider eating out market** (MCA Food To Go Market Report, 2019).

The identified trends are:

1) Food diversity

Consumers are looking for food that fits with their lives, is flexible and convenient but without compromising quality and appeal. Food providers are responding to this consumption change by offering menus and ranges that are more diverse in terms of flavour and format. Global cuisines and fusions are becoming more popular; particularly hot options like burritos, fajitas and ramen, as consumers look for more exciting foods over the traditional sandwich.

2) The rise of health and wellness

Health and wellness is rising in importance to many consumers, as the retail health market continues to grow by 1.4% year-on-year, currently estimated to be worth £20.8 billion (AHDB Consumer Insights: Evolution of Health, 2019). Increasing uptake of ‘managed-led’ diets (restrictive diets, i.e. reduced fat or salt) are driving market growth, while emerging health needs like flexitarianism also contribute. Food processors and retailers are tapping into these trends through widening ranges, improving signposting, education and personalisation.

3) Environment

Not only is personal health a key factor for consumers, so is the health of the planet. Recent media coverage about the environmental impact of plastic packaging waste in particular has bumped sustainability up the shopper priority ladder. Indeed, 86% of consumers are concerned about plastic usage in product packaging, with 59% claiming it affects their purchasing behaviour (YouGov/AHDB, 31 May 2019). This topic is particularly pertinent to the food-to-go industry, which typically uses single-use packaging.

Out-of-home channels are switching on to the more ethical consumer, with fast food chains ditching plastic straws, and coffee shop chains using biodegradable cups and reusable cup schemes.

4) New locations

Food-to-go providers are finding new ways of connecting with consumers by making themselves more available in new locations. Some are opening counters within supermarkets, offering food like sushi and deli-type options. Others are opening staffed counters and self-serve machines for both hot and cold food in gyms, universities and even workplaces.      

Restaurants are entering the food-to-go market by offering takeaway menus, the idea being restaurant-quality food without having to sit down for the full experience. Other retailers are trialling click-and-collect options, where consumers pre-order food through an app and collect in-store at a time convenient to them.

Food or market halls are popping up in more and more cities for those seeking food-to-go. Rather than the typical food court seen in shopping centres, these next generation market halls are independent, and are often situated in disused urban buildings. The idea is a trendy social eating space, bringing together independent, local businesses offering a wide choice of food, with influence from around the world. Examples include Market Hall in London, Baltic Market in Liverpool and Digbeth Dining Club in Birmingham.

To find out more


 * food typically purchased from places like fast-food outlets, supermarkets and convenience shops, designed to be eaten while travelling/out and about

** all occasions where food is eaten out-of-home e.g. restaurants, coffee shops, fast-food outlets, petrol stations, airports, pubs

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