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Time-poor consumers want to be able to purchase food that they can eat immediately and independent retailers are in a perfect position to capitalise.

Eating habits are evolving, with eating on the go now featuring prominently in everyday food consumption as a result of increasingly busy lifestyles, new ordering and payment technologies and an expanding array of choice.
This shift means that food now has to fit around jam packed schedules rather than just being consumed as part of traditional sit-down meals, resulting in the meteoric rise of the food-to-go business.
Mintel data reveals 76% of the UK’s adult population buy food for lunch on the move.
With the food-to-go trend becoming so prevalent, consumers are no longer content with just a sandwich or salad and are increasingly seeking out hot food-to-go options. Instant hot snacks are perfectly positioned to respond to this by providing a tasty and convenient alternative at lunch time or throughout the day.
“Historically, instant hot snacks are confined to aisles deep within supermarkets, but we believe there is a strong growth opportunity in ‘food for now’ and ‘food for later’ shopping missions and this need to be reflected in the merchandising strategies instore, ” comments Monique Rossi, Foods Portfolio and Channel Transformation director at Unilever. “For example, increasing visibility of products in areas where consumers are likely to make impulse purchases. We’ve seen proof of this by trialling Pot Noodle products in the Food to Go area of stores and saw sales double, proving that visibility in the right space can be incremental.”
There are three consumer trends driving the instant hot snack category – fill, experience and health.
Fill is very much about consumers wanting something quick and easy to appease their hunger need on-the-go without compromising on taste. Unilever’s Pot Masterbrand portfolio including Pot Noodle, Pot Pasta and Pot Rice fulfils this.
The experience need state is fuelled by the desire to try exciting new flavours which is being driven by the growing trend for world flavours and street food. Unilever teamed up with Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen to create Red Red Super Stews – a range of three vegan-friendly mini meals all in exotic flavours.
The final trend is health. “We are committed to helping consumers make healthier choices without compromising on taste, which is why we started the Prep Company in 2018,” adds Rossi. “High in protein and made with natural ingredients, Prep Co pot snacks have successfully brought a new demographic into the category that are actively seeking out healthier lunch options– resulting in incremental sales.”
There is an amazing opportunity for retailers to take advantage of the almost 1bn out-of-home eating opportunities that happen each year, says Matt Gouldsmith – Channel Director, Wholesale at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.
With 13% of convenience shoppers driven by food and drink to go missions (HIM), meal deals are certainly an important part of an independent store’s offering.
“The main components of a food to go shopper’s basket are carbonated soft drinks, sandwiches, single bags of crisps and bakery items so these categories should be the building blocks of meal deals offered in store,” says Gouldsmith. “Secondary sites for these categories – for example a small crisps fixture attached to the soft drinks chiller – will help to drive cross-category spend and point shoppers towards the meal deal opportunity.”
Alongside convenience, health is another trend becoming a key factor in shoppers’ purchasing decisions.
With the food-to-go market estimated to be worth £21.2bn in 2019, a 3% growth on 2018, a Harris Interactive Survey conducted in 2018 found that sandwiches are the preferred lunch-to-go option for shoppers, with a 55% majority.
“Consumers look for branded solutions in savoury pastry and sandwiches, in fact more so than confectionery and crisps, as brands give quality and taste reassurance for FTG buyers,” says Mike Smith, Marketing Director.
Ginsters’ new product development taps into convenience and versatility without a compromise on quality.
Studies have shown the number of shoppers that rank supporting British farmers as highly important has grown year-on-year, and almost half of all shoppers are prepared to pay more for British food [IGD 2018].
Provenance and local sourcing are high on the agenda at Ginsters; the firm only uses 100% British farmed meat in its savoury pastry products, vegetables sourced from a local farm on the Rame Peninsula – just 15 miles from Ginsters’ bakery in Cornwall wherever possible, and the company never adds artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
Following +5.5% year-on-year growth in 2018, Ginsters is continuing to develop products for food-to-go convenience channels, including a growing Bitesize range of its most-loved heritage products: the Cornish Pasty and Sausage Roll.
An all-new Bitesize flavour is launching in spring 2019, packaged in resealable cartons for added convenience. It’s a versatile range too; consumers can enjoy Bitesize as an in-home fridge filler or snacking on-the-go.
Ginsters’ best-selling sandwiches are BLT, Chicken and Bacon, and Ham and Cheese, indicating that consumers prefer traditional flavours in this category. Provenance remains important to consumers; the company uses quality farm-assured British beef, pork, chicken and cheese in its products, which add to the distinctive Ginsters taste.
“The food-to-go shopper looks for interesting meal deals and inspiring choices with variations in the options available,” comments Smith. “Well-stocked shelves are essential, so consumers have lots to choose from.”
Freshness of products is key to this, along with a range of healthy options, including those that cater to different dietary requirements.
“Getting the basics right is key, ensuring that the right space, range and display is given over to food-to-go,” adds Smith. “Shoppers work from a script of learnt behaviour, established over time, using visual cues to familiarise themselves.”
Over two-thirds of visual cues are colour based and shoppers use brands as signposts to help orientate themselves before making their selection.
“Trends towards healthier lifestyle choices have become embedded in the UK’s mindset, resulting in an evolution of what we are eating,” says Pavan Chandra, Marketing Manager at Peperami and parent company Jack Link’s. “Within this, there has been a dramatic shift in the snacking world that sees a global movement towards nutritionally based choices and changing preferences around increasing protein and reducing sugar consumption.”
The trend specifically towards high protein snacks has evolved from niche muscle building to having a broader everyday appeal, connected to healthier eating where energy and vitality feature.
As a result of this, growth within the meat snacks category has flourished, due to its credentials as a complete protein source, growing over 9% in the last two years with industry projections of compound annual growth rate up 11% to 2025.
Peperami is the leading brand in the meat snacking category (Nielsen). Peperami’s 100% Classic Beef variant, with its high protein content, has filled a gap in the market for on the go beef snack products.
As the jerky and biltong category is still relatively underdeveloped with less than 5% of the UK population purchasing it, there is still huge opportunity for growth.
“It is important for brands to drive visibility and awareness of the category, positioning it as a high protein, low calorie on the go snack, easily enjoyed at work or as the ultimate gym bag essential for both pre or post workout,” suggests Chandra.
The launch of Jack Link’s Biltong in 2018 has tapped into this high protein trend, appealing to the ever-growing fitness demographic.
Announced as the No.1 jerky and biltong brand in 2018 (ISI), Jack Link’s – hailing from the jerky roots of the United States with over 40 years expertise – is the largest meat snacks company in the world and plans to drive awareness in the UK market in 2019 and beyond.
Jack Link’s jerky and biltong offer a high protein snack at under 80 calories per serving , using 100% lean beef. One of the fastest growing jerky and biltong companies in the UK, Jack Link’s is growing 50% YOY (Nielsen).
With the growing demand for functional snacks, products which are most likely to be popular are those high in protein and low in fat.
As such, retailers need to ensure that protein rich snacks are predominantly stored at front of store.
“Clip strips and display units are a great short-term solution to drive visibility of meat protein snacks as alternative to confectionary and crisps,” continues Chandra. “The Jack Link’s clip strips deliver the optimal merchandising format for retailers as the clip strips encourage consumers to trial the product and provide a great grab and go option.”
In 2019, Jack Link’s will be investing over £1 million to reach 10 million savoury snackers in the UK with a digital and instore marketing campaign.
Last year, Peperami introduced a new case and pack design enabling retailers to merchandise product vertically. The new simplified pack design focuses on the distinctive brand assets and the vertical merchandising helps to increase visibility in store, maximising purchase opportunities.
“Hot food to go has been highlighted as the area shoppers most want to see range expansion, and there are several benefits to retailers who answer this demand; the smell and theatre in store around a hot food offering often leads to shoppers buying on impulse as well as upweighting baskets,” comments Richard Cooper, Senior Brand Manager, Dr. Oetker Professional (UK).
It also unlocks higher footfall as well as new daypart missions including evening meal. In fact, food to go has a role to play wherever shoppers are hungry or thirsty and this goes beyond lunch times; 61% of shoppers surveyed by IGD have completed a food to go mission for an evening meal, just 10% behind lunch time missions.
“Bespoke meal deals are a fantastic way for retailers to attract footfall and build a reputation for quality food to go; encouraging upsell with drinks and sides at all times of the day,” adds Cooper.
Chicago Town, the UK’s number one frozen pizza brand, is helping convenience retailers get a big slice of the booming £6bn grab and go market with its hot and fresh takeaway pizza concept – Pizza To Go.
Pizza To Go presents the perfect opportunity for retailers to capitalise on the meal deal opportunity and retailers can take advantage of the vast range of Pizza To Go promotional support materials to help communicate their offering.
Promotional items, available FOC when purchasing a Pizza To Go hot cabinet, include point of sale packs, menu cards and disposables which can be positioned next to the unit, in-store. Full training will also be provided to help retailers become a ‘Pizza to Go’ professional and serve up The Ultimate Pizza Hit every time. Ongoing support through field teams will also be given to retailers to help them continually attract footfall and maximise sales.
“Ultimately, the food to go offer has got to be right, and a credible brand can help you do that,” adds Cooper. “If you get it right, you can drive incremental sales. Something that’s really appetising and disrupting in-store really helps that cut-through and hopefully brings people back to your store.”