Fine forecast for food-to-go thanks to plant-based innovation

Innovation to deliver more plant-based menus and increased availability of high quality food in more and more locations will help the food-to-go market reach sales of £23.4 billion by 2024, up from £18.5 billion in 2019.

Growth will be “hard to come by” in the restaurant sub-sector, said IGD, which compiled the forecasts, but this won’t stop food-to-go as a whole experiencing double the growth of the wider UK food and grocery retail market (26.4% versus 12.5%) over the next five years.

“Food-to-go remains a key growth opportunity for businesses, and one that appears particularly attractive given the structural and growth challenges being faced by UK supermarkets and hypermarkets right now,” said Rhian Thomas, IGD head of shopper and food-to-go insight.

Convenience stores, forecourts and other retailers, such as Spar, Tesco Express, Boots and Coop, are expected to lead the charge with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.4% over the next five years to a value of £3.8 billion. “There is lots of growth to go for,” said Thomas.

Sales across the coffee specialists, like Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero, are predicted to reach £4.3 billion, a CAGR of 5.2%. Many chains have been “upgrading” their food offer, noted IGD.

Meanwhile, the food-to-go specialists like Greggs, Subway, Pret and Leon are expected to experience a CAGR of 4.6%, with sales up from £5 billion in 2019 to £6.3 billion in 2024.

IGD noted that businesses with “a willingness to innovate” have often been rewarded. Greggs’ introduction of a vegan sausage roll, for example, has created “huge impact” across the market and supported further growth for the chain. Indeed, in its interim results published this week, Greggs said the rolls are now one of its top sellers.

Vegan and plant-based offers have quickly become a priority for the sector. For a growing number of operators, offering a variety of menu items that are vegan and vegetarian has become integral to their broader proposition.

Pret’s Veggie Pret concept is the oft-cited example. Earlier this year, Pret bought rival sandwich chain Eat in order to “turbocharge” its vegan and vegetarian offer. Pret plans to convert “as many of EAT’s shops as possible” to Veggie Prets.

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