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How food-to-go trends will shape the wider food landscape in 2020

2019 was a significant year for food-to-go, not least in its expanding impact on strategies beyond food-to-go specialists in food retail and foodservice. Here we consider some of the key trends for the year ahead and their impact across the wider food market.

©Food Futures Insights 2020 1. A growing need for environmentally positive strategies will emerge

2019 brought a sea change in broader consumer expectations over recycling and recyclability, feeding through into consumption patterns and choices made in-store. Understanding the full implications across the supply chain in getting product to store, the in-store experience and the recyclability of packaging beyond the store will all become increasingly key aspects for success across food retail and foodservice. In the US, Sweetgreen remains a prominent operator to take inspiration from, not least in the transparency of its supply chain, but it is far from the only one. We expect, as in many other areas, food-to-go to remain at the leading edge of developments and solutions. 2. Expect more locational flexibility

The notion of building a successful chain based on high street locations is, for many sectors, a thing of the past. And while for food-to-go the high street remains an alluring option, high property costs and high levels of competition mean perhaps the better opportunities for profitable growth lie elsewhere. Travel hubs have been a key recent focus, and there’s undoubtedly much more to come here, but this thinking is increasingly extending to festivals, hospitals, offices, fitness centres and sports stadia. The festival theme is an intriguing one for food retail stores, with Kaufland and the Co-op delivering particularly impressive pop-up stores at festivals in Germany and the UK respectively in 2019. And of course supermarkets and hypermarkets retain significant potential, currently being developed and articulated in a variety of strategies across Europe and North America. 3. The growth of delivery offers new opportunities for growth - but for the many or the few?

Delivery is a much discussed theme right now, as highlighted by the current corporate interest in securing ownership of Just Eat. And for some businesses, delivery has injected significant new growth, not least McDonald’s, which in the UK has transformed its growth trajectory as a result. But for others the benefits / disadvantages equation is less clear. There are implications to consider around how the food looks, tastes and feels after the delivery that impact operations. Meanwhile the loss of data, or potential data, and of course profits from delivering through online agglomerators, is not easy to manage. 4. Plant-based will be celebrated on more menus and shelves

The growth over 2019 in enticing plant-based options has been impressive, while the signposting around these options has also been a strong feature of the past year. There’s more to come in this space however, and we expect more vegan and vegetarian options to become more celebrated parts of more menus. Operators like Copper Branch and byChloe are pushing the agenda forward on both sides of the Atlantic, while what’s become increasingly noticeable is the R&D activity that’s being put into developing better plant-based options from an array of leading retailers. 5. Showcasing the freshness of solutions will rise further up the agenda

Whatever part of the food business you are in, it’s hard to ignore the momentum shift towards online growth. It’s happening at different paces in different markets, but the wave towards consumers meeting more of their food and drink needs with online ordering continues. Which creates an interesting dynamic for stores, and implies a different approach is required to make those stores deliver, in an environment where alternatives are a mouse click or a smartphone touch away. And it’s been impressive how recent format developments in a range of markets globally have sought to accentuate fresh areas in-store. We continue to see the Netherlands as a great market for this, not least in how the likes of Jumbo and Albert Heijn fuse this with their in-store food-to-go offer. But there are many other markets that also offer great learnings around this, not least in North America. 6. Technology will become more front and centre

The front of house role of technology in foodservice in general, not just food-to-go, has to date been limited. True, there have been a number of high profile technology executions, but few major operators, beyond the likes of McDonald’s, have actually implemented technology to enhance the customer experience. And that’s because it hasn’t been easy - or cost effective - to do so. In late 2019 however, London experienced a flurry of new implementations from the Vita Mojo team. Could this be a wider pre-cursor to more use of tech in menu selection across not just London, but Europe? We certainly think so, particularly given the ability to personalise menus around avoiding or including certain ingredients.  7. Food hall culture will grow and shape more food retail, food-to-go and restaurant development

Those major European cities without food halls are perhaps now more notable than those that do, and cities such as London, Copenhagen, Madrid, Rotterdam and Amsterdam have stretched into multiple food hall territory. New major developments are feted for London, Brussels and Paris over the next two years, and the incubation of a selection of varied concepts inside a modest sized space is attracting the interest of a growing number of large format food retailers, keen to explore new opportunities of how they reshape their footprints for the future. Carrefour was a great example in late 2019, with its refurbished Marseille store following on from its Dijon footprint in showcasing a Fresh Avenue, food hall style concept, offering a selection of both in-house and concession offerings as part of an upweighted focus on food-for-now. Expect others to look on with interest and follow suit. 8. Service will become more important for more outlets - getting the model right to underpin that customer service difference and creating a great customer experience will be key

Many food-to-go operators will tell you how critical this is as a component of their businesses. And in fact, for any business looking to maximise their food-to-go opportunity, getting this right is key. Time can be the key variable in many food-to-go missions. Staff that help you complete your mission in the right way can therefore be crucial. A shift in KPIs, and potentially a shift in recruiting approach, could become more important for retailers looking to grow in this space. But there is a lot to learn across this and the other aspects of creating and delivering a great customer experience from the approaches of best-in-class food-to-go operators, whether they be food-to-go specialists in London, the retail-foodservice hybrids such as Fresh the Good Food Market and Thomas Ennis’ SPAR in Dublin, and a variety of different operators in the Netherlands and Belgium that effectively bring this to life.


Our safari services help you to see these trends in action in major cities across Europe. We'll take you to visit some of the most innovative operators, while setting the trends in context and bringing them to life. Take a look at our programme here or get in touch. Our next safari will take place in London on January 28th.


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