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The food to go market has evolved over the past few years in the midst of a global pandemic with more people than ever before working from home.
This new report revealed that the food to go sector experienced growth of 32% in 2022, to a value of £21.3bn. This figure well exceeds its pre-pandemic 2019 value, demonstrating the significant importance of the market despite the fact that many professionals are continuing to work from home.
Blonnie Whist commented: “During the pandemic, the very nature of food to go was hampered by tight restrictions on movement. However, the channel has always been well placed to recover post-pandemic. This is apparent in our forecasts, which indicate a full recovery by the end of 2022. This growth is set to be driven by a number of factors.
“Firstly, the reopening of hospitality, as well as recovery in city centre footfall, will drive food to go occasions as more consumers return to offices at least some of the working week. Secondly, recovery in travel and tourism will boost food to go throughout key parts of 2022, including the summer months. Thirdly, food to go is a relatively low ticket and is well placed to capitalise on tighter budgets as consumers feel the impact of cost increases across food, fuel and utility bills as well as taxation.”
The home working effect
The way in which people work has completely changed in the past two years, and people have found working from home is preferable to being office-based. And despite nearly one in three saying they work longer hours remotely, over half (56%) reported an increase in their levels of happiness working from home.
According to Dan Barron, an expert in all things health food at FDReviews, independent retailers, particularly those with a local footfall, will find that “reviewing their offering and adapting to this new flexible but healthier worker could provide a gateway to a new sales opportunity.”
The findings also revealed that premium products are leading new product development, which is good news for fine food retailers. In fact, the majority of new food to go products rolled out since 2020 were in the £4 and over category.
Independent retailers such as farm shops and food halls can capitalise on this trend by stocking high-quality lunch options and bakery items.
Flexitarian trends in food to go
Over a third (34%) of food to go consumers describe themselves as flexitarian, and this has increased by +1ppts in the 12-week period up to 30/01/22. Food to go consumers are also more likely to be non-drinkers, vegetarian and non-dairy, highlighting the importance of operators catering to these needs across new product development and proposition.
Non-dairy and vegetarian consumers also increased by +1ppts in this period too, demonstrating the growth of these dietary fields.
Moreover, consumers are opting for healthier meals to fuel their brain, and their day. According to the Food to Go Market Report 2022, food to go consumers are 6% more likely to align with health-led values than the average eating and drinking out consumer. These values consist of focusing on a balanced and nutritious diet and having an active lifestyle that requires more protein.
For example, popular food to go chain Leon has now begun to target health-conscious home workers with the launch of a range of “plant-rich” soups and salads into major supermarket Sainsbury’s. The range is completely vegan and gluten-free, with all the soups weighing in at under 300 calories and providing two of consumers five a day. And with exciting spiced flavours such as Curried Coconut & Sweet Potato and Roast Tomato and Harissa, it is clear to see why these are popular with remote workers.
As Dan explains, “flexible working effectively equates to flexible eating – but this time, it’s with a healthy twist, and independent retailers are perfectly placed to benefit.”