Gavin Rothwell, Senior Insights Manager at IGD, kick starts our 2017 coverage of food-to-go by sharing our view of the key trends to look out for.
1. The rise and rise of health and wellness
Yes, it's January, a time when health always comes to the fore, but a combination of forces are leading us to believe that health will scale new heights in 2017. Health awareness has never been higher, allergen-awareness has increased exponentially and the presence in-store of healthier alternatives within on-the-go missions is growing rapidly. Crucially, the variety of products and flavours available is expanding, and foods that positively support active lifestyles are becoming more commonplace in many leading markets. A further motivator lies in how technology is supporting greater awareness - wearables and trackers sit alongside apps that are helping shoppers better understand the nutritional and calorific value of what they are eating.
2. New types of locations are being targeted
Let's take the UK example here. Food-to-go specialists, most of which would have traditionally been London-based, are expanding at pace to reach new shoppers and new missions. Some of this is about targeting new transit locations - both Tossed and Pret are now present in motorway services, while Subway and Greggs are expanding across petrol forecourts at pace, seeing a big opportunity to target the on-the-go shopper. The other element here is moving into new types of location outside of the UK's capital. Smaller, regional centres are proving to have a growing appetite for a wider range of food-to-go options, as specialists such as Leon and Tortilla are proving.
3. An increased focus on alternative missions
Breakfast is perhaps the most obvious mission here, and we expect the focus of various retailers and specialists to continue to fall on this. But the breakfast market remains relatively small, and transaction sizes can be modest. So we're expecting a broader focus on alternative missions at different times of day. Some of this might be evening meal solutions, but other elements however might be less rigid or less defined snacking occasions: for example with products better tailored to target the post gym energy boost, or the post work snack.
4. Further integration of technology to enhance the in-store experience
Eateries like San Francisco's Eatsa and London's Inamo deliver one aspect of this, where customers' entire ordering experience is via in-store tablet, but we expect the prevalence of apps that enable remote ordering for collection in-store to grow, building on the success of Starbucks' remote ordering app in 2016. US salad specialist Sweetgreen is going further, converting most of its stores to be cashless.
5. More fusion between retail and food-to-go concepts
Retailers in many different markets are looking at how they can better cater for the food-to-go opportunity. For the likes of Whole Foods Market and Wegmans in the US, it's already core to the proposition, but other super and hypermarket retailers - like Carrefour, with its Bon App shop-in-shop format, are increasing their focus. For smaller stores, Ireland represents a key market to learn from. In particular, Musgrave's Centra has been extremely progressive in how it delivers a compelling food-to-go offer, a convenience store and an enticing eat-in area within one single space, in stores such as O'Connell St in Limerick, and Kildare. We expect much more of this to follow in 2017 and beyond, as more retailers look to capture a larger share of the growing food-to-go opportunity.
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