Our lives are getting busier and busier – and it’s good news for the grocery trade. A recent IGD report reckons the UK food-to-go sector will be worth £23.5bn by 2022, up from £17.4bn in 2017.

Neighbourhood and forecourt shops are playing an increasingly active role and IGD predicts their F2G sales growing 6.1% by 2022, up from £2.7bn to £3.6bn. Meanwhile as the supermarkets develop their convenience format outlets in our high streets and other high footfall locations, the food to go offerings near the entrance are one of the main destination sections in these stores. The various suppliers we spoke to for this feature are clear about how their Food To Go propositions fit in. We enjoy Food To Go round the clock, so our overview starts at Breakfast time.

Breakfast cereals originally developed to make sure families started their day having eaten some food, but now cereals have evolved to an even more convenient format, says Toby Baker, Marketing Director UK, Nestlé Cereals: “Life for Brits is getting busier and busier, and people are constantly looking for more convenient solutions to cut down time on day-to-day tasks, including at meal times.”

Toby says in 2018, 1.8 billion breakfasts were eaten out of the home in the UK – 4% up on 2017. This highlights a significant opportunity for the food and drinks industry. With breakfast being an important meal and cereals still one of the most popular morning meal choices, eaten at one in two in-home breakfast occasions, manufacturers and grocery retailers can benefit from providing convenience-format products.

Responding to the rising trend towards breakfast on-the-go in the UK, Nestlé Cereals has released two new convenience-format products. In August 2017 contain a pot of cereal, milk and a spoon, providing a simple and convenient way for consumers to enjoy some of their favourite cereals at work and on-the-go.

In February this year, Nestlé Cereals also launched their innovative ‘Box Bowls’ range – a six pack of Nestlé Cereals favourites that can be eaten straight from the box. Consumers can pour milk into the specially-designed bag inside the box and grab a spoon for a tasty breakfast to be enjoyed at home, or on the go. All elements of the box bowl are recyclable, which we know is a growing consideration for the UK’s environmentally-conscious consumers.

“Consumer attitudes towards health and nutrition are also changing,” says Toby Baker, “so nutritious and tasty breakfast options are key to success in on-the-go offerings. This has always been a big focus for us – Shredded Wheat is made with one hundred percent whole grain, and is low in saturated fat. We know that reducing intakes of saturated fat as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle can contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. We’ve made it even easier for customers to identify which of our products contain whole grain with the green banner on the top of packs. The cereals that carry this green banner have whole grain as the number one ingredient and provide at least 8g of whole grain per serving.”

Breakfast drinks are another way breakfast cereals have become more convenient for Food To Go, says Gavin Loftus, Head of Brand for Weetabix On The Go: “Weetabix On The Go is the leader in the breakfast drinks category – an £18m brand with a 72% share of the sector. We have increased the number of distribution points for our product year-on-year.

“2019 is an exciting year for Weetabix On The Go as we aim to increase penetration through greater distribution and increased consumer investment. In autumn 2018 we returned to TV and launched a radio campaign for the first time, and we’ll continue to add to this investment in the year ahead as part of Weetabix’s £10m masterbrand investment and continuation of the ‘Have You Had Your Weetabix?’ campaign.”

“We’re partnering with retailers to provide category management for both ambient and chilled space, ensuring retailers can stay ahead of the Breakfast on the go growth curve. Breakfast on the go shopper missions vary considerably across different store formats, by partnering with retailers we can ensure retailers have the right range and pack sizes in order to capitalise on the opportunity.

“Breakfast drinks are the most impulsive part of the cereal category and continue to grow – now valued at £26m – so it’s still a great opportunity for retailers to tap into the demand for a chilled breakfast on the move.”

Also part of the Weetabix cereal business, Helena Blincow is Marketing Manager at Alpen: “The cereal and snacking bars sector is a £550m plus market and currently growing 4% yearon- year. Alpen Bars is a top ten brand in this sector and is nearly a £30m business. The Light range is currently growing 3% year on year and 10% in the latest 12 weeks.

“Innovation is more important than ever and we have invested in our Alpen range this year with our new Protein range and exciting new flavours to maintain our market position. Cereal bars can be a healthy snacking choice for shoppers who are looking for a convenient and tasty way to start the day while on the move. We also have big plans for Alpen Bars in 2019, with £1m investment behind the brand.”

“Salted Caramel has been a firm favourite with consumers and is one of the most popular flavours across many different categories. Our Salted Caramel product has been a huge success, pulling on the indulgent flavour trend, but still with only 70 calories. Salted Caramel Light bars are now worth almost £3m and are one of the fastest growing products in the category.”

Research suggests that millennials are less set in their ways as previous generations and open to new things: “On the whole they are also more health-conscious, looking for products that can be consumed as part of an active, healthy lifestyle.

“Containing just 70 calories, Alpen Light bars are packed with flavour and allow millennials to make a positive snacking choice. This generation have less disposable income, but are still willing to invest in brand names, so it’s important for brands to prove their worth. Placement within both the cereal bar fixtures and healthy living fixtures can help support sales, as well as front of store to help drive impulse purchase. Staying with breakfast, Christina Honigfort is Head of Marketing at bagel specialists New York Bakery Co. Bread is Britain’s go-to, with 42% eating it daily, but Christina says consumers are looking for alternative flavour carriers to make the most of breakfast. In the bagel sector, almost half (48%) of eating occasions are at breakfast, and bagels are growing faster than the morning goods category overall.

New York Bakery Co.’s research also shows consumers are choosing seeded and/or wholegrain breads, perceiving them to be healthier. New York Bakery expanded its Thins range last April with a new Soft Seeded variant, containing 7.2g of fibre per 100g. New York Bakery’s Bagel Thins are growing 50.6% annually, ahead of the overall Bagel Thins category at 42.5%. New York Bakery’s bagels are made the authentic way, boiled then baked, with no artificial colours or flavours.

After breakfast consumers are looking for a mid-morning treat. Kate Sykes, Marketing Manager, Lantmännen Unibake UK says snacking is the biggest occasion contributing to the food-to-go market, with consumers on average purchasing a snack on the go 5.8 times per month, but for her the focus is on bakery.

Lantmännen Unibake recommends a selection of sweet and savoury handheld bakery products like their Schulstad Bakery Solutions Portuguese Custard Tart, a perfect small sweet treat. Kate Sykes says LU’s Classic French and Danish pastries are also popular food-togo snacks, especially mid-morning, with consumers looking for a pre-lunch pick me up. Placing freshly baked pastries in grab bags at tills and alongside coffee machines, backed by strong POS, can help increase impulse sales, tempting customers with the smell of fresh baking and an enticing bakery selection.

Savoury pastry offerings are also important in food to go, accounting for 8.7% of lunchtime on the go purchases. Lantmännen Unibake provides a range of innovative solutions to meet the huge demand for freshly baked savoury lunch options, including their Tomato & Cheese Swirly and Schulstad Bakery Solutions Cheese Twist.

Whatever time of day it happens, Anca Lazar, Brand Manager Cathedral City Snacking at Dairy Crest says health and convenience are the two key factors influencing snacking choices for adults and children.

Anca quotes Mintel’s research on food to go, which finds snacking culture continues to be pervasive, with 96% of the sample eating between meals, 69% of them daily. These consumers see snacks as a necessity to maintain energy levels between meals or replace meals. Younger shoppers are driving growth, with 18-25s twice as likely as older people to buy food-to-go in convenience format stores.

Him! Research says health continues to be a huge priority for c-store shoppers and demand for healthy food to go is on the rise, with nearly two fifths of shoppers believing nutritious options are important. With the tide turning against sugar, consumers looking for naturally nutritious, less processed products and protein-based snacks growing in popularity, Anca Lazar and colleagues at Dairy Crest see a significant opportunity for adult cheese snacking products to build food to go sales.

Snacking on cheese is an engrained consumer habit, with 44% of adults doing so between meals (Mintel Healthy Snacking 2016) and an equivalent number buying cheese with snacking in mind. Anca Lazar, Brand Manager Cathedral City Snacking says:

“Significant numbers of adults snack on cheese at home but feel there are no products suited to their needs for on the go snacking. Around ninety percent of cheese snacking is by adults, yet the clear majority of cheese snacking ranges are aimed at kids.”

Dairy Crest are targeting this with their recently relaunched Cathedral City Snack Bars, offering a convenient, portion controlled, grab and go savoury snacking alternative. Dairy Crest’s Cathedral City Lunch Pack is the top adult cheese snacking SKU. Making the family connection, Cathedral City is once again sponsoring primetime ITV family quiz show, Britain’s Brightest Family, now on its second series.

Natural ingredients specialists RM Curtis produce a range of natural snacking options under the Snacking Essentials brand, including a range of ‘shot packs’ delivering a single-portion natural energy ‘shot.’ Curtis are also launching three Snacking Essentials snacking trays to sit by the till as a healthy alternative to crisps and confectionery.

RM Curtis Commercial Director Peter Felix says: ‘Consumers have many more healthy snacking choices now, but they’re looking for more than just protein and fibre benefits, they want something to make their taste buds tingle. Our three new snacking tray options are based on key flavour trends, barbecue and Thai-based Chilli and Kaffir Lime.”

Another snack supplier catering to Food To Go, Georgina Edmonds,Marketing Manager at Nature’s Finest sees vegan as the major opportunity: “With this year’s Veganuary the biggest on record and veganism continuing to grow, brands and retailers need to offer appealing vegan on the go alternatives.”

All Nature’s Finest’s fruit is naturally vegan friendly and gluten free, ideal for a healthy, balanced diet. Nature’s Finest’s potted fruit sn exotic and interesting flavour snacks. Nature’s Finest mango in coconut water is a tropical twist on the classic fruit with no added sugar, while Nature’s Finest Mandarin and Peach 220g with sporks appeals to adult snackers.

Wayne Greensmith, Head of Category Marketing at Adelie Foods, agrees about the importance of veganism in Food To Go, but also feels the lines are blurring between foodservice and retail when it comes to food to go:

“More and more snack pots and high protein products are coming in, along with flavour influences from Japanese, Latin American and South East Asian cuisines, but the movement that’s taken over above all is veganism. On the retail side there’s also been a sharp rise in high street outlets offering lunch options on the go. There’s also been increased demand for more on the move hot food options with 45% of shoppers wanting them.

“Consumers are willing to pay more for taste and quality, and a 99p sandwich is a huge turn off, particularly in convenience format stores. £3.50-£4 meal deals work well and customers are willing to pay more for quality and selection, but retailers need to make the shopper journey straightforward and easy.”

With retailers and foodservice outlets slugging it out for Food To Go sales, Wayne says competition is fierce and consumers are less loyal, so getting the range and merchandising right has never been so important.

Adelie’s URBAN eat range contains delicious and fresh sandwiches and wraps in a variety of classic and modern flavours, as well as pasta salads, hot eats and sushi from the best-selling core range, the eat Better range for those looking for a healthier choice, Roots for vegetarian and vegan options, and No Fuss for those on a budget.

Many top-selling in-home snacks and treats are also perfect for on the go consumption, says Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International. Starting with breakfast, Mondelez’s belVita Breakfast is available in convenient single packs, in several variants – belVita Strawberry Duo Crunch, belVita Honey & Nut, belVita Crunchy Hazelnut and Soft Bakes Choc Chip. belVita continues to lead the healthy biscuits and breakfast biscuits segment through sustained NPD and marketing.

Biscuits are another great opportunity for convenience format stores to drive their Food To Go sales. Mondelez’s big biscuit launch last summer was the Joyfills range, light, crispy bites with a delicious filling, with four variants endorsed by two power brands, world number one biscuit brand Oreo and the UK’s favourite chocolate Cadbury. Also part of Mondelez’s portfolio, Dairylea, the number one processed cheese brand, appeals to consumer desires for individually wrapped formats that help with portion control and are ideal for on-the-go, snacking and picnics. The Snacking Kits subcategory is the key growth driver in processed cheese, which is growing 10%, with Dairylea Lunchables holding 71%.

Confectionery is also a key component in Food To Go, because of its size and value, and as the most impulsive category in convenience format stores. Leading singles brands Mondelez’s Twirl, Wispa and Cadbury Dairy Milk increase impulse sales from Food 2 Go shoppers.

Staying with chocolate confectionery, Mars Wrigley Confectionery has launched Mars More Protein and Snickers More Protein, which can be enjoyed on the go. The new products help introduce a new demographic, offering the treat appeal of iconic Mars and Snickers brands in lower sugar and higher protein versions.

David Manzini, General Manager, Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK, says: “With the protein category continuing to grow, these exciting new innovations provide retailers with a great opportunity to tap into this trend, boosting those all-important impulse purchases.”

More and more consumers are opting for a healthy lifestyle, says Polly Davies, Category Controller at Florette UK, with research showing three-quarters of adults actively trying to be healthier, up from 66% three years ago:

“Healthy eating is driving the produce category, and the desire for healthier food-to-go products looks set to dominate. Consumers are no longer satisfied by the category heartland of sandwiches, pasties and carb-heavy pasta salads, and would like a choice of lighter options.”

The grocery multiples account for one in five lunch-to-go trips, which is set to rise further with consumers opting for convenient and affordable products. Looking ahead, food-to-go sales are predicted to grow from £18bn in 2018 to £23bn by 2023, showing continued appetite for convenience. The UK salad market’s stats are very strong, says Polly Davies – 80% of UK households buy prepared salads and over 1,167 salad packs are sold every minute. Lunchbox occasions are rising +2% annually and 16% of lunchboxes are prepared for health benefits. Florette has responded by expanding its range to include some new lunchtime options. Provide an alternative to the everyday sandwich, the new lunch bowls offer consumers a filling and healthy lunch option – BBQ Chicken and Bacon Crispy Salad, Chicken and Sweetcorn Crunchy Salad and Feta and Tomato Crispy Salad.

“Convenience is key for consumers seeking on-the-go bakery snacking options,” says Jeremy Gilboy, MD at Carrs Foods. “So it’s important that products can be eaten comfortably on the move.” Last July, Carrs Foods launched the St Pierre’s On the Go range, nine individually wrapped any time snack products, with RSPs from 69p to £1, individually wrapped for convenience and easily eaten with one hand with minimal mess.

Among all age groups, taste and value for money were the most important factors in choosing a snack, followed by being filling and not messy. Jeremy Gilboy says mood is also a big choice driver for on the go snacks:

“Our research gives a clear message to retailers that breadth, variety and convenience are all important factors to consider and they can maximise the trend by offering a range of snacks to meet the needs of all ages, occasions and moods.”

To help drive footfall for the new St Pierre On the Go range, products can be dispensed on the shelf, at the till point or via a branded free-standing display unit, which will help create additional shelf space while enhancing visibility and its small footprint means it takes up minimal room.

Healthier snacking is a growing trend and shows no signs of slowing down, says Katy Hamblin, marketing manager of Pipers Crisps. The total ‘better for you’ market is now worth nearly £125m, up 9.3% year on year, and over half the population is buying in. Two-thirds of shoppers are repeat purchasers and healthy eating snacks are being bought far more frequently, up to six trips a year.

To meet this demand, Pipers Crispeas are a fresh take on the British pea, in three flavours – Matar Paneer, Salsa Verde and English Mint – offering a low calorie (less than 91 kcal per pack) source of protein and fibre in a snack, with all the bold taste associated with a Pipers snack. Pipers Crispeas are gluten-free, wheat-free, barley-free and suitable for vegetarians.

Pot snacks have been a Food To Go staple for decades says Steve Kelly, Channel Director at Premier Foods, makers of Batchelors Super Noodles Pots:

“With the Pot Snacks sector worth £204m, our Batchelors Super Noodles Pots are the ideal product to drive sales, available in four flavours – Chicken, BBQ Beef, Curry, and Bacon. If retailers have a coffee machine or hot water point, they can offer shoppers a complete takeaway solution. The number of single eating occasions is on the rise at +10% annually. Batchelors Pasta ‘n’ Sauce and Cup a Soup to Go Pots are also part of the range, available in £1.09 PMPs.

Premier Foods also make sweet treats, including Mr Kipling and Cadbury Cakes. The twin packs for these brands provide a point of difference and are ideal for a quick top-up snack. The range includes Mr Kipling twin-pack slices and Cherry Bakewells, as well as Cadbury Mini Rolls. Finally, Kate Halligan, Convenience Account Manager, TePe UK, points out that TePe’s EasyPick12-pack toothpicks are ideal complementary products alongside other food-to-go essentials. By helping people to clean between teeth while on-the-go, retailers can drive further impulse purchasing and boost incremental sales.

Before we turn to drinks, let’s look at smoothies, which bridge solid food and liquid snacking and perform well in Food To Go environments. Paul Gurnell is CEO of Savsé, the UK’s No.1 cold pressed juices and smoothie brand, which has experienced rapid brand growth and has a loyal fan-base with strong repeat purchase shoppers. Savsé is sold in supermarkets, high street retailers, convenience stores and foodservice outlets.

Paul Gurnell says: “Whilst smoothies are a viable choice throughout the day, there are key periods which add incremental sales to stores. With more people than ever eating breakfast out of home, there are sharp rises in demand for healthy smoothies, particularly ‘green’ varieties, at the start of the day, with lunchtime seeing increased demands in high street and convenience stores. However, one of the biggest growth drivers over the last twelve months has been the increased volumes coming through forecourts, as ranges changed to reflect demands.”

Savsé has also launched the world’s first range of Cold Pressed Protein Smoothies, giving consumers a natural protein boost at levels accessible to all, not just those interested in building muscle. They contain 10-12g of protein versus traditional protein products, which can contain as much as 25-30g. To make the most of the food to go opportunity, says Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners, retailers should also offer soft drinks in a range of on-the-go formats.

“As consumers try to be healthier, sugar content has become a major factor in choices and they’re on the lookout for more low-sugar options, especially on the move. Bottled water is another fast growing soft drinks sector, with sales in immediate consumption formats on the rise. Flavoured water is also growing in popularity, offering an alternative to traditional carbonated soft drinks by combining lower and zero sugar credentials, fruity, refreshing flavours and hydration. We expect flavour innovation in this sector to continue as demand increases.”

CCEP also introduced a new flavoured water range, Oasis Aquashock, to the Oasis portfolio last year, in two flavours, a ‘hot’ Oasis Aquashock Spicy Raspberry with fiery chilli, and Chilled Cherry, containing cooling, tangy lime, appealing to young adults.

The health and wellness trend continues to influence on-the-go purchasing as more consumers opt for low and zero sugar drinks. In addition to the drive for lower calorie, there is an increasing love of these products in their own right, with brands such as Coca-Cola zero sugar developing a dedicated fan-base.

“To respond to the growing demand for low/zero sugar sparkling soft drinks, we have invested more than £25m into Coca-Cola zero sugar since 2016,” says Amy Burgess. “To support the growing demand for low and zero sugar soft drinks, CCEP launched new flavoured variants in our lights portfolio last year including Diet Coke Exotic Mango and Coca-Cola zero sugar Peach. Last year we launched Capri-Sun No Added Sugar Orange-Lemon 330ml, giving health conscious consumers an exciting new juice drink option.”

75% of consumption in 330ml packs comes from adults, most between 18-34. CCE’s most radical launch last year was Fuze Tea, a premium, low-calorie blend of fruits, botanicals and tea. Iced tea has seen a popularity boost over the past 20 years and continues to grow. Fuze Tea is Soft Drink Tax-exempt, made using 100% sustainably sourced tea leaves and available in two variants, Green Tea & Mango Chamomile and Black Tea, Peach & Hibiscus. They’re available in 400ml PET on-the-go bottles, as well as 4x400ml PET bottle multipacks Millennials are the largest iced tea consumers and Fuze Tea appeals to this group with its sustainable, low-calorie credentials and fresh, innovative flavours.

Emma Hunt, Marketing Director, Vimto Soft Drinks says the health trend is changing the way consumers buy their products too, with sales of Vimto’s No Added Sugar range including Vim2o and Vimto Remix growing at a huge +25%, contributing to almost half Vimto sales. A still spring water drink with the unique taste of Vimto, Vim2o contains No Added Sugar, and is aimed at health-conscious people who want to stay hydrated without compromising on taste.

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