Comeback of Food-to-go: Trends, Bestsellers, Merchandising tips

With lives returning back to normal and grab-and-go aisle seeing a revival of footfall, make sure you are stocked well with wide, healthy and premium options.

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Do you know that 30 percent of Britons enjoy food-to-go (FTG) occasions at least once per week? No wonder, this section in a convenience store is not only utmost crucial for generating sales but can also play a huge role in attracting more footfalls and converting first-time buyers into loyal customers.

However, the last two years have not been very kind to this aisle.

Reports claim that pre-pandemic FTG represented almost a quarter of the eating-out market, but contracted during 2020. Clearly, an increase in remote and hybrid working drastically impacted the FTG market over the last two years. However, good news here is that the segment is now making a recovery albeit slowly.

IGD’s figures also hints at slow recovery. In 2021, the FTG market was worth £15.6 billion, up by 16.5 percent in 2020, but still much smaller than £18.9bn in 2019.

Ross Davison, Convenience Controller at Kepak Consumer Foods- the home of Rustlers, acknowledges the return to FTG missions.

“Food to go missions continue to recover, particularly at lunchtime, with 67 percent of FTG shoppers on this mission in the last 4 weeks – the highest level since the start of 2020,” points out Davison.

On the other hand, Matt Collins, Trading Director- KP Snacks, has high hopes from 2022.

“We are confident about the future of the category and expect 2022 to be a positive year of growth, having already seen significant recovery in the sector, and our portfolio is well-placed to capitalise on and drive singles recovery,” he said.

Collins’ hopes seems apt as FTG market is predicted to grow by +31.8 percent in 2022, to a value of £21.3 billion, according to Lumina Intelligence, which also states that key channels, such as convenience stores, are expected to exceed 2019 turnover this year.

Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director at Ferrero UK & Ireland, believes the pandemic brought a shift in consumer buying habits and has increased the popularity of convenience stores. Although shopping has become more planned and structured, there is still a lot of scope of impulse purchase especially through items like Tic Tac, Kinder and Duplo.

Trends to Know

While some items will continue to be UK’s favourite, a few trends are expected to shape FTG in the coming times.

Laura Trivulzio, Marketing Director- Peperami & Jack Link’s, reveals how the meat snacks category is growing fast and nearly one in three households now purchase a meat snack.

“In fact, the chilled meat snacking category is growing +29 percent, and Peperami is also growing double digits at +18 percent, with market share currently 48 percent,” Trivulzio told Asian Trader, adding there is still headroom for even more growth.

Health is on the nation’s mind and FTG is where shoppers are using this lens the most.

In fact, both health and premium indulgence have grown in importance. There has been a paradigm shift in snacking habits as consumers are demanding more permissible options, with healthier snack bars forecasted to grow by 14 percent over the next three years.

Gerry Roads, Marketing Manager for Snacking at General Mills, vouches heavily on healthy snacks.

“We believe that snacks that boost nutrition through added fibre or protein or those fortified with vitamins, or those that help consumers get their five-a-day or reach certain lifestyle goals will be a key driver for the sector, as shoppers become more health-conscious,” Roads told Asian Trader.


Cereal bar brand Nature Valley offers those added benefits through Nature Valley Crunchy and Nature Valley Protein. 

With consumers also seeking weight management solutions after more than a year of restricted movement and increased indulgence, the weight management snacks category is now valued at £120.7m. And driving this trend is Fibre One 90 calorie from General Mills, which is now the third biggest brand in the category.

Also, Britons are increasingly switching to whole and raw ingredients, such as nuts, fruit and wholegrain. 

Tapping into the fitness quotient, General Mills’ new ‘real food’ Nature Valley Full Mix range is a truly indulgent, yet wholesome snack with a full variety of tastes and textures in one bar.

Another new launch by the maker, Nature Valley Protein Softbakes are high in fibre and available in two flavours – Oats & Honey and Blueberry & Almond.

To help retailers boost their on-the-go sales, Nature Valley has revealed a new price marked pack (PMP) offer under which shoppers will be able to purchase two Nature Valley Crunchy singles for £1, previously 59p each.

Other noteworthy new products from General Mills include Fibre One 90 calorie Cookies & Cream Drizzle Square, Strawberry Cheesecake Cake Bar and LÄRABAR’s Choc Chip Cookie Dough variant.

Vegan snack bar brand LÄRABAR – made with only simple and real ingredients like dates and nuts – meets the demand for minimally-processed options.

Collins from KP Snacks believes that retailers should look to create value by understanding customer expectations- be it premium or value offerings.

“51 percent of shoppers look for meal deals when buying food to go and 34 percent of shoppers say they would pay more than £5 for meal deals if the products were high quality,” Collins revealed to Asian Trader.

KP Snacks portfolio delivers the top three selling meal deal SKUs. Hula Hoops Big Hoops BBQ Beef is the top selling PMP in the convenience channel, worth £12.2m  and takes the number one spot for best-selling Meal Deal choice, Collins said, adding that Tyrrells is perfect for customers seeking a more premium snack.

Mark Frossell, Commercial Manager for St Pierre, echoes similar sentiment when he revealed how indulgent products saw an uplift as people explored ways to treat themselves well at home during the pandemic. 

“St Pierre launched individually-wrapped ranges in multipack formats in April 2020, which catered to retailers looking to capitalise on the ‘on the go’ crowd then enjoying coffee experiences at home,” Frossell said.

Sustainability is another aspect which no retailer can afford to ignore anymore as many purchasing decisions are now being affected by how sustainable a product claims to be. 

Premier Foods unveils new festive additions to Mr Kipling and Cadbury Cakes ranges

As a founder member of the UK Plastics Pact, Premier Foods are taking important action to achieve 100 percent recyclability of the plastics.

“At the start of 2019 we took action to remove black plastic from our portfolio – first from our Mr Kipling Cakes, Pies, and Puddings and secondly from our Cadbury Cakes – switching instead to using clear, recyclable plastic trays or pots,” Courtney Lewis, Channel Director at Premier Foods, said.

In 2019, Border Biscuits too outlined its commitment to eliminate 90 percent of plastic from core retail packaging and was among the first in the sweet treats category to proactively change its packaging to achieve a positive environmental impact. 

Not to forget that HFSS, set to come into effect from October this year, is going to be a huge game-changer in this segment. 

“Nature Valley Family Packs will keep delivering value for our consumers in a post-HFSS world, all while delivering amazing taste, which we know is the number one purchase driver of the category,” Roads from General Mills pointed out.

Also exempt from HFSS legislation are nuts with their natural and functional benefits. Packed with protein and fibre which is highlighted through its labelling, KP Nuts is the number one brand in nuts, more than four times bigger than the nearest branded competitor, worth £83.8M RSV and is growing +7.3 percent.

Another noteworthy brand here is popchips which comes under 100 calories per serving, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and with a third less fat than the market leader. 

Snacks-on-the-go: Must-Stock and NPD

Weekday lunchtimes continue to remain the most popular time in FTG. 

With 51.4 percent of Rustlers already consumed at lunchtime, Rustlers’ innovative Cook in Box range, the brand’s most convenient solution to date with a patented cooking method, further meets consumer needs.

“Consumers can heat the fully assembled burger without even opening the pack, eliminating any messy preparation whilst also acting as a product carrier to enable easy consumption on the go,” Davison from Kepak Consumer Foods told Asian Trader.

Apart from lunchtime, mid-meal hunger will continue to drive sale of grab and go snacks, especially healthy quick bite options.

Peperami’s recent launch, Chorizo 5 packs, is made with 100 percent pork and packed with protein. With just 99  calories per portion, the product is the ideal, nutritionally beneficial choice for consumers to incorporate into their lunchtime and afternoon snacking regime. Peperami has also recently introduced the popular protein product Chicken Bites.

There are some standout performers from the St Pierre range as well that retailers should focus on. 

Sales of St Pierre Butter Croissants are up by 257 per cent while the demand for waffles has also grown along with St Pierre Brioche Loaf and Tear & Share.

Kinder Cards are available as single-serve packs of two cards, as well as a multipack of four (eight cards), to appeal to existing shoppers as well as new ones, Boorer from Ferrero said.

With 49 percent of shoppers visiting the biscuit aisle, biscuits and other sweet snacks present a huge scope for incremental sales. 

To tap the premium segment, leading brand Border Biscuits is adding three new products to its portfolio – a Dark Chocolate Orange biscuit and bar, alongside a Dark Chocolate Raspberry biscuit. 

“We understand what consumers want, and our trusted brand and track record in innovation mean we’re in the perfect position to deliver it,” Paul Parkins, Managing Director at Border Biscuits, said.

As we continue to binge-watch and binge-eat, sharing snacks are driving the market. No wonder, PMPs continue to be the king here.

As Golden Wonder celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the brand offers ‘more punch per crunch’ with Golden Wonder’s £1 PMP Snacks range.

£1 PMP Sharing Crisps have seen excellent growth and Golden Wonder’s recently launched range of unique flavours – Mature Cheddar and Spring Onion, Chargrilled Steak and Crispy Smoked Bacon – are performing strongly. 

Pork Snacks sales have been performing well as consumers continue to enjoy the ultimate pub snack at home so retailers should consider stocking Tayto Group’s two leading brands- Mr Porky and Midland Snacks.

Within the cheese market processed cheese is growing at 2.8 percent and brands are playing a huge part in this. Mondelēz International’s Philadelphia is the number one Soft White Cheese brand in the UK. Its core range has a distinctive creamy taste meeting the needs of shoppers for more than 100 years, with a whole range of flavours and fat levels, as well as a snacks range.

Dairylea is another leading cheese brand, with products in the Spreads, Slices, Parents to Kids and Snacking Kits segments, meeting a range of consumer needs to tackle “the new normal”.

Cakes continue to be shoppers’ favourite- young and old.

Lewis from Premier Foods reveals how their cake brands, especially Mr Kipling in particular, has seen extremely positive results within the last year. 

“Our Cadbury Twin Pack Mini Rolls and Mr Kipling Slices Twin Packs are an ideal opportunity to drive on-the-go sales in-store, especially as shoppers are looking to treat themselves during the week,” Lewis told Asian Trader.

There is also a constant rise in single format impulse confectionery as well. In fact, in a recent survey, Mondelez asked independent retailers how their singles sales changed during 2021, and 43 percent said they’d increased. 

Cadbury Twirl Orange single bar was the top-selling NPD in the market and Cadbury Caramilk single bar – only launched in July – was the ninth best-selling NPD, with 4 of the top 10 being singles. Single chocolate bars as well as smaller packs of sugar confectionery and mints remain crucial to a retailer’s range to help them meet the demands of impulse shoppers looking for treats on the go during the day.

Drinks-on-the-go: Must-Stocks and NPDs

Busier lifestyles and warmer weather mean people are set to spend time out of the home. Bottled water is a big performer and key to the category, tapping into the importance of maintaining healthy hydration while on the go. 

Highland Spring’s still unflavoured water is gaining popularity and has seen a 47 percent increase in value sales across the impulse sector.

“Our 100 percent recycled range is the perfect on-the-go format, available in both a sports cap and regular cap, which is 100 percent recyclable (including label and cap) and recycled (cap and label excluded), helping consumers to participate in the circular economy,” reveals Mike Buckland, Marketing Controller, Highland Spring Group.

Highland Spring’s flavoured sparkling cans are also great on-the-go and a delicious way to stay hydrated throughout the day. Available in three different flavours – Blackberry, Plum & Hibiscus, Pear & Elderflower and Rhubarb & Ginger – and under 35 calories per can, they are also a fantastic choice for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle and try to avoid traditional soft drinks.

Low and no alcohol drinks continue to perform well in the industry, with a third of people in the UK now choosing them ‘semi-regularly’. Retailers should bear this in mind when stocking products to ensure they are tapping into the trend and capitalising with sales, Buckland said, adding that both Highland Spring’s flavoured cans and plain sparkling water are perfect for those looking for a non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverage.


As life in the UK returns to normal, on-the-go soft drinks sales too are bouncing back. Retailers should make sure to stock up on on-the-go formats of popular soft drinks such as Lucozade Energy and Lucozade Zero to capitalise on this ongoing trend.

More and more Britons are now gravitating towards drinks with lower sugar so much so that the no- and low-sugar market has grown more than the full-sugar market over the past year with an increase of over 24 percent. 

Assessing the tide, retailers should ensure to stock up on lower-sugar drinks such as Lucozade Zero and Ribena Light. 

“Lucozade Alert has recently brought a brand-new flavour to shelves, with the exciting launch of Lucozade Alert Original. Building on the success of the launch of its Tropical Burst and Cherry Blast flavours, Original is the latest addition to the Lucozade Alert range, which generated £1million in sales in under two months through wholesale and convenience stores,” Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale, Suntory Beverage & Food GB& I, said.

Ribena too can help retailers to drive sales this year through an updated promotion with Hasbro. In store now and running until the end of May, the on-pack promotion will offer shoppers the chance to win one of 10,000 limited-edition Ribena Mini Monopoly boards, as well as thousands of other prizes across Hasbro’s classic games. 


Dairy drinks continue to charm us. In fact, milkshakes even proved resilient to the fallout from Covid, performing better than most other beverage segments since 2019. They now represent 1.9 percent of total beverages – an increase from 1.3 percent five years ago. 

Retailers should focus on core ranges and best-selling products with good packaging that makes a product stand out on shelf. F’real delivers across all these points and more, driving footfall in the process.

Paul Cheema from Malcolm’s Stores Ltd (Nisa) reveals how installing a F’real machine has been a game changer for him.

“We recently installed a f’real machine in our forecourt store and placed it along with our other ‘food to go’ solutions. The wait for the machine was very much worth it – we’re selling over 90 cups a week and stock is replenished weekly through Eden Farms. It’s been a great add on to our shop and we’ve been really pleased with f’real’s services,” Cheema said.

Not to forget hot beverages here.

Total retail category sales of coffee is soaring by 8 percent year on year and Cafédirect continues to be one of the key drivers of this trend.

Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Retail sales of its range of Single Grind, Freeze Dried and Beans surged by +28 percent (value) in the last year, as the brand continued to capitalise on an increased demand for more premium offerings. 

“New listings throughout all retail channels have also helped the brand to secure a 6.8 percent share of all coffee sales, and the majority of the brand’s growth (85 percent) has come from increasing demand for Cafédirect’s popular Single Origins range – including our Machu Picchu, Mayan Gold, Colombia Reserva, and Kilimanjaro offerings – as consumers look to experiment at home and replicate their favourite out of home drinking experiences in the comfort of their own homes,” Lesley Parker, Brand Controller for Cafédirect at distributor RH Amar told Asian Trader.

New launch from this brand is a Freeze Dried Instant Decaf Machu Picchu Coffee (RRP:£4.50, 100g), which will join Cafédirect’s popular instant line up from the New Year, ahead of the introduction of a WHOLE BEAN sibling for filters and cafetières in spring (RRP: £4.50, 227g).

Merchandising Tips

FTG is a key opportunity for retailers looking to capitalise on impulse purchase.

Having large packs, and multipacks of top-selling SKUs is also core for those on a top up mission, and where space is limited, branded POS units work as great solutions.

Trivulzio advises retailers to stock PMPs to signpost good value across all snacking occasions. Peperami’s  PMPs for their hugely popular single sticks in Original, Hot and Firestick, priced at £1.00 in 30g formats, provide bigger bite for consumers and bigger margin for retailers.

Stocking recognisable and trusted brands such as Tic Tac, Kinder and Duplo can attract shoppers’ interest easily.

“Tic Tac is well-known for its quality products, so stocking a strong core range helps provide retailers with relevance year-round. The three biggest flavours that consumers are looking for in this category are mint, fruits and extra-strong mint,” Boorer from Ferrero told Asian Trader.

Retailers should consider using key products to create bundle deals of ‘essentials’ whereby commuters can pick them up with a magazine, newspaper, or coffee.

With 54 percent of shoppers purchasing items on impulse, PMPs drive sales through clear messaging. Not only do PMPs offer consumers great value for money, the clear pricing also gives them assurance that they are not being over charged. 

KP Snacks £1 PMP range offers an extensive portfolio of products with 25 £1 PMP SKUs designed to excite shoppers and drive impulse purchases. KP Snacks also offers a range of delicious snacks in smaller PMP formats for only 39p.

Cross merchandising can also aid retailers looking to maximise sales. Individually-wrapped cakes or sweet treats can spark imagination when cross merchandised with hot drinks, Frossell from St Pierre said.

Road Ahead

FTG’s road ahead may seem bumpy for now but is expected to smooth over in next few months. As consumer expectations increase, the convenience channel may face threats from higher spend specialists, as pointed out by a recent report which predicts that over 1,500 new outlets are set to open this year, led by sandwich and bakery, coffee shop and travel segments.

Innovation, here, is the key.

Store owners should tap alternative routes, including delivery, takeaways and drive-thrus. Delivery/takeaway at-home lunch occasions have tripled since 2019, as per Kantar, representing a staggering 574 million occasions in the last year.

FTG options need to stand out to ensure consumers step back from their fridges. Innovation should focus on fresh, healthy offerings, both hot and cold, covering breakfast, lunch and snacking.

Value propositions are vital. Meal deals, promotions and loyalty schemes will entice the buyers.

As recessionary conditions prevail, operators need to stock trusted and familiar brands and offer the right product and price mix. As food to go missions make a comeback, shoppers are looking for retailers who can provide them with variety, convenience, value for money as well as healthy options. Stock wisely.