food-to-go counter London

Food-To-Go is the Way to Go

The UK’s food-to-go sector is showing no signs of slowing down. The market is expected to be worth £23.4bn by 2024, up from £18.5bn in 2019.

Last week we visited Lunch!, the largest food-to-go trade show in the UK, to scope out the product innovations and consumer trends of today and tomorrow. First up on the speaker roster was founder of Future of Food Service, Simon Stenning. Stenning shared his foresight for what the food service market will look like in 2030, the key drivers of change and what the popular consumer trends will be.

DRIVING CHANGE IN THE FOOD-TO-GO SECTOR

An obvious yet significant driver of change is the growing and ageing UK population, says Stenning. The UK population is set to increase from 66 to 72.9 million people by 2041.

The working population is also on the rise. And commutes to work are expected to get longer as more people will be pushed to live further out of the big cities. So as people’s lives become busier, consumers will seek greater convenience, speed, ease and availability.

Stenning also points out that by 2030, the generation mix will be different, which comes with generational changes in attitudes, lifestyles and activeness. For example, a 70-year-old in 2030 will be more likely to grab food-on-the-go than a 70-year-old does today. 

Tourism is another factor that will impact the UK food-to-go market. Based on projections from Visit Britain, Stenning predicts the number of UK tourist visits per year could jump to 66 million by 2030. This presents a great opportunity for food-to-go outlets to tailor their menus to suit the demands and needs of those tourists.

What will we be eating in 2030?

  • With growing awareness around sustainability and people increasingly choosing a plant-based or flexitarian diet, Stenning expects there will be many more plant-based options and meat alternatives in 2030.
  • ‘Food with a function’ – i.e. foods with health-enhancing benefits. Pret’s Director of Food & Coffee, Guy Meakin and Brand Director of Crussh, Helen Harrison believe foods that are good for your gut-health are on the rise.
  • Alternative proteins such as insects, peas and tempeh.
  • Alternative grains and more gluten-free products.
  • Emergent cuisines from around the world.
  • Personalised meals that can be customised and tailored to food allergies and intolerances.

WHEN WILL WE BE EATING IN 2030?

Stenning also predicts changes to when we will be eating in 2030. Traditional mealtimes are already shifting to make way for more frequent snacking occasions. And this trend shows no signs of stopping. Lines between snacking and mealtimes will continue to blur. Snacking will become increasingly important as busy lifestyles drive the need for more convenient, on-the-go foods.

2030 will also bring many more breakfast occasions. Today, on average, breakfast is eaten out of home on 2.5 times a week. That’s the same number of times as dinner. Stenning believes there’s tremendous growth opportunity in breakfast for the food-to-go sector in order to accommodate busier lifestyles.

the push for a greener future

Whilst the future looks bright for the food-to-go sector, sustainability is a challenge that cannot be taken lightly – and one that will not be easy to solve. Consumers are increasingly paying more attention to sustainability issues and expecting companies to take greater responsibility in safeguarding the environment. Suppliers and retailers will therefore need to work together to find ways to make the sector more sustainable; this could include anything from how the food is produced to the way it’s packaged and disposed of.