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What January launches tell us about the year ahead in food-to-go

Updated: Jan 30

Three weeks, several frosts and multiple storms into 2024, the mood around UK food-to-go feels much more positive than the weather. Here are some of the trends and initiatives we’ve seen so far this year.



 

1.     More healthier options coming through

 

Perhaps this is inevitable for January, but we expect this to continue through the year. We’re more knowledgeable about and more interested in our health than ever before, and major new launches such as the ZOE gut shot at M&S are set to take this further. Over recent years there’s been significant expansion in healthier ranges at a variety of operators – in 2024 we see scope to take this considerably further, and to position these products more strongly as destination products in their own right.

 

2.     Snacking and targeting different missions

 

Another theme along with health covered during our food-to-go insights session in London on Thursday, this is still at an early stage in many markets. But we're seeing raised interest from a range of operators. A significant January launch for us was the new kids range at Pret - and while it might be designed for kids, if you put product on shelf, you might just find it attracts older customers as well, looking for smaller portion sizes for different occasions. Outside the UK, we've seen the likes for 7-Eleven in Denmark and Exki in Brussels and Paris do a great job at targeting the snacking mission, in 7-Eleven's case on a 24 hour basis.

 

 

3.     The meal deal will remain a key mechanic and there’s scope for more

 

The meal deal can be a classic case of a double edged sword - great for driving additional sales, albeit at the expense of margin. But it can be very powerful, particularly in markets like the UK and France where its ubiquity creates broader consumer expectations around it. One of the key things we're seeing right now is how it is spreading in travel locations and among food-to-go specialists, while it's also notable how Tesco is also using its meal deal to target breakfast missions.


4.     Expansion has risen up the priority list


The last few years have been hard. But as we move into 2024, we're sensing greater willingness to trial new initiatives and routes to growth, and to push harder to achieve this. Naturally, businesses retain an awareness that major uncertainties remain and could impact. But there's also a growing feeling that this could be the right time to springboard new growth, whether that be international expansion (as we've recently seen from the likes of Kaleido Salad Rolls and Crosstown), targeting new channels (Coco di Mama targeting delivered in office catering) or building new partnerships.


Of course, the expansion theme also means other entrants to the UK - Mexican franchises Zócalo and Zambrero for example are both targeting UK growth, building on success in other markets.


5.     Partnerships and collaborations will reach new heights


Another theme examined at our food-to-go go insights session, it's one where we've seen a lot of activity in 2023 that promises to grow further in 2024. We're of the view that the types of partnerships may also evolve significantly, but we're also of the view that there are great opportunities across a range of European retailers for food-to-go operators that can deliver innovative food-to-go solutions. We'll explore several of these in our upcoming retail safari 2024 programme, kicking off on February 29 in Paris (more details here).


Want to find out more about how we can support your business in developing a stronger food-to-go proposition? Get in touch via gavin@foodfuturesinsights.com.


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