Foodservice fuels food-to-go recovery

The food-to-go market is recovering faster than expected and is predicted to be worth more than £20bn by 2026.

Analysis by IGD estimated the channel will be worth £15.6bn at the end of 2021, which is 82.5% of its 2019 value. The food-to-go market is forecast to return to its pre-covid levels in the second half of 2022, six months earlier than expected.

The sector is then expected to deliver five consecutive years of growth, driven predominantly by foodservice operators, meaning that by 2026 it will be worth £22.7bn.

IGD said that quick service restaurants (QSRs) in particular had been the main driver of recent growth, increasing market share from 77% in 2019 to 79% in 2021. It said covid restrictions had played a significant role, predominantly due to consumers suffering from cooking fatigue and opting for affordable treats, which has in-turn benefited “destination” food-to-go sites.

In retail, conversely, the share of the food-to-go market is forecast to reduce to 21% in 2021 from 24% in 2019 before increasing to 23% by 2026. “In 2021, retailers have faced increased competition from foodservice operators who adapted quickly to changing consumer habits and demands. And, due to the decrease in demand and shift in shopping habits, retailers reallocated space to other categories,” explained Nicola Knight, IGD’s senior analyst for food-to-go.

Innovations in delivery, digital and customer proposition have placed those foodservice businesses that have survived the pandemic in a good position to maintain momentum as restrictions ease, according to Knight. She did, however, warn that QSRs, coffee shops and food-to-go outlets “may experience a dip in sales growth in the second half of this year, as consumers have more choice on where and how to spend their money”.

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