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Six ways food-to-go will change in 2022

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

2022 has started cautiously, with working from home and limited socialising for many. But as more normality returns, it’s time to look forward to what the rest of the year will hold. Here are some of themes we’re considering.

1. There will be more partnerships and collaborations

There’s so much already going on here already. But across Europe, food-to-go operators are considering the new shapes of their businesses, with city centre footfall at best different, but often lower, than what it once was. With this in mind, more are looking to different locations. In particular, those that drive their own footfall – think gyms, supermarkets and transit hubs – will become increasingly sought after. We continue to think other locations, such as stadia, cinemas, hotels and other leisure destinations, also hold significant opportunity. And of course, there are many different definitions to what partnerships and collaborations can be - expect these to be stretched further.

2. The rise and importance of roadside will continue

Roadside has been a growing focus for many over the past year. Bite Delite in Germany and Pret in the UK are just two food-to-go operators already testing the opportunity on forecourts. Meanwhile EG Group’s ambitious plans for Leon appear heavily shaped by the roadside opportunity for the brand across Northern Europe.

There's a lot to go for here, supported by longer term drivers around fuel and forecourt usage. We therefore see considerable scope for more development along the lines of the excellent Alltown Fresh on the US East Coast. But getting the right brand in the right environment is key.

3. There will be greater focus on the neighbourhood hub opportunity

This is a fascinating evolution, and one that undoubtedly unlocks new opportunities. While few markets can yet benefit from stores as well-aligned to this as Chicago's Foxtrot Market or Denver's Choice, stores on this side of the Atlantic such as Centra Miller's Glen, in Swords, north of Dublin, show a similar direction of travel.

4. Perceptions of what a supermarket should look like will shift further

In our recent visits across North America and Northern Europe, we've experienced some excellent formats that will help shape future shopping experiences, including the likes of GIANT Heirloom, Edeka Unterföhring, Coop Hagastaden, ICA Roslagstull and SuperValu Kilmainham to name but a few. A common trait among them is a shift away from the traditional supermarket layout. This has relevance across all categories, presenting new opportunities - and sometimes new challenges - through which to sell. Across the store, technology and service both have important, and different, roles to play in shaping individual shopper journeys that inspire. And a good dose of that culinary inspiration can be served up in upgraded food-to-go and foodservice propositions. And alongside this, being locally relevant will become more critical.

In an environment in which discount and online will grow in importance, developing stronger credentials, capability and customer resonance across a wider range of food and drink missions will become more important. New strategies will often be required to take advantage of the opportunity, and new structures to support them.

5. More cuisines will gain traction in food-to-go

From visiting many different formats and concepts across different markets recently, one take-out is that the benefits of being tied to a particular country’s cuisine is often not the best route. Of course, there are some great examples of operators doing this very well - Coco di Mama in the UK is one strong example, and Eataly is a testimony to what can be achieved through this approach. But having flexibility in the cuisines to draw from is a strong card to be able to play. What we’ve taken from our recent visits programme is that there is much more potential to play on and build through seasonality across a number of markets. And fusing seasonal local vegetables into global favourites, something we saw a lot of earlier this month in Copenhagen, is an unexploited opportunity.

6. Many will target an extension of time of day relevance, but it may require a new approach to prosper

We’ve had the privilege of testing dishes and products from many fantastic concepts over recent weeks. And some of the most inspiring and flexible – in terms of meeting different daytime and evening missions, have been those with bowls, typically grain based and often with scope to personalise. The nature of many of these is also a good fit with wider changes that are impacting, namely the combination of 'better for you' and 'better for the planet'.

And that's just one example of how we see opportunities for food-to-go in new missions, markets and occasions, clearly with digital - whether it's in-store or via online ordering, a key facilitator to this. But being willing to think differently may be key to unlocking this potential. Despite the uncertainty, there's lots to go for. Good luck!

Subscribers to Food Formats in Focus will receive a fuller presentation in February. Get in touch to find out more about this or our other services, designed to help you better understand and take advantage of emerging and future food-to-go and retail opportunities.


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