Food-to-go: what lies ahead for 2019

Date : 03 January 2019

2018 brought a huge amount of innovation and development in food-to-go, alongside, for many, some impressive growth in what remains a key area for future expansion. Here we share our outlook for the key trends to watch in 2019.

1. The rise and rise of health & wellness

 Of course, it’s the time of year for all things healthy, but we saw last year that the strengthening healthier eating focus within food-to-go wasn’t just for the post Christmas hangover. Instead we saw a continuing focus on healthier new product development through the year, the arrival of jackfruit as a staple on many a food-to-go menu roster, and an increasing focus on expanding – and more effectively signposting – vegan and vegetarian options.  In the Netherlands both Albert Heijn and Jumbo have focused on expanding vegetarian and vegan to go ranges, often supported by dedicated displays and counters, with Jumbo for example introducing a Veggie Chef counter at its latest Foodmarkt stores. Meanwhile across food-to-go specialists, there’s a continuing impetus on all types of operator to expand ranges here, with Greggs’ launch of a vegan version of its iconic sausage roll in the UK just the latest example. We see the background consumer and shopper drivers as being very favourable to significant further development in this space in 2019. 

2. New missions, new solutions

Retailers, food-to-go specialists and manufacturers alike are now turning their thinking to the next stage of food-to-go development, and what they will need to do to take advantage. Right now, a key theme across much of Northern Europe is how to unlock hot food as an opportunity for growth, and we are seeing initiatives across both self-serve and counter served solutions.  This has been a focus for the likes of Pret, Costa and Starbucks as much as it has been for retailers, with the UK retailer Co-op’s rollout of Rollover hot dogs for example now extending to more than 600 stores. While the benchmark may be set by retailers like last year’s IGD store of the year award winner Fresh the Good Food Market in Dublin, with a hot food offer that specifically targets not just breakfast and lunch but also evening meals, growing numbers of FMCG suppliers are considering how they can take advantage of the opportunity around hot on-the-go solutions.  

3. Doing good is good business

This is a trend that extends well beyond food-to-go and we’ve called it out as a key area in our wider global trends to look out for in 2019.  But it has a particular food-to-go relevance, given the nature of on the go consumption. So shifts towards reusable cups, compostable cutlery and less plastic use will be among the key elements many will look to move on in 2019. While for some these will be core elements of what they do, for others they will be much smaller parts of bigger initiatives, and we’d call out the likes of Seattle’s Homegrown and Portland’s New Seasons Market from the US West Coast as innovators to learn from, supported by a business goal from each to leave the world a better place than they found it.

4. Partnerships and new locations

Increasingly we are seeing different types of thinking influencing format development, primarily from the retail side but also across the wider food landscape. Recent large grocery store developments such as Auchan Val de Fontenay in France, Carrefour Mont Saint Jean in Belgium and Sainsbury’s Selly Oak in the UK show the role that partnerships can play in enhancing the wider food-to-go appeal of a large format retail store, in these cases in combination with the Hana Group. But they are not the only ones active here - Foodmaker’s involvement in the development of Delhaize’s new Fresh Atelier concept in Belgium is indicative of a wider trend towards partnerships.

5. New food destinations

While HMS Host’s Food Truck Festival at Oslo Airport is still only in one location, it’s this type of initiative, bringing street food style food into new locations, that we see as being a key pillar of development going forward. This will sit alongside – and be supported by the continuing expansion of the food hall trend. Time Out Market, supported by its success in Lisbon, has ambitious rollout plans across Europe and North America over the next two years, while London’s Market Hall opened its latest Victoria location in late 2018, with a further London location planned for 2019. At the same time, the food hall scene in North America continues to impress, with cities like New York and Toronto showing growing diversification and specialisation in the look and feel of different food halls, and their ability to show relevance to local catchments, whether city centre or, increasingly we believe, in suburban locations. This could be a fascinating next step for food halls, and creates some intriguing opportunities for collaboration to create new types of food destinations. What's clear is that development continues apace, and much remains up for grabs in defining the food spaces of the future for retailers, food hall operators, manufacturers and food-to-go specialists alike. 

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