UK ‘food-on-the-go’ (FOTG) market is poised to resume growth, reports NPD Group


Get closer to busy mobile consumers. Ride successful new product concepts and trends. Satisfy demand for unexplored, exotic cuisines. These are some of the potential opportunities in Britain’s food-on-the-go (FOTG) market identified by global information provider The NPD Group.

FOTG visits declined by -1.8% in the year ending June 2015 while ‘on-premise’ visits grew by almost 5%. But this may be the result of increasing competition as foodservice outlets of all kinds compete for a smaller number of visits (438 million fewer out-of-home visits in YE June 2015 compared to YE June 2009). Operators – especially in the QSR and Casual Dining sectors – have invested significantly to improve the in-store offering to consumers. This renewed focus on ‘experience’ and ‘environment’ has contributed to the growth in ‘on-premise’ visits.

FOTG is ready to fight back
But the NPD Group points to a range of factors that could see the FOTG sector fight back. There are healthier FOTG product choices offering lower calories, lower fat and lactose-free, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Eating on the go is becoming easier thanks to product innovations including more portable breakfasts as well as convenient pots and soups for lunch. Packaging is underlining authenticity, portability and premium quality. Retail outlets have strong ‘ready to eat’ offers. Technology is a catalyst to all this with online ordering and new apps for consumers on the go and self-checkout and contactless payment for consumers visiting a retail outlet for food and drink they can take out.

Jack MacIntyre, NPD Group senior account manager, UK foodservice said: “The QSR and Casual Dining sectors have competed and invested fiercely, helping the ‘on-premises’ market to grow. But with the food and/or drink in over half of all visits to the British foodservice market being taken ‘off premise’ for consumption, ‘food on the go’ is clearly a very important feature. The huge importance we place on convenience in our culture of fast-living and instant gratification points to clear opportunities.”

Signs of FOTG growth?
The NPD Group says dinner is an occasion that is seeing signs of FOTG growth. While the overall dinner occasion is down -1% in terms of on-the-go visits for the YE June’15, the fast-food (QSR) and retail channels have each seen growth in on-the-go visits at dinner time. The NPD Group also cites the London foodservice market. FOTG visits in London grew by +3.6% in the latest year to June ’15, although ‘on-premise’ visits still did better with growth of +8.8%.

MacIntyre added: “Anybody drawing up a checklist of strengths and opportunities for the FOTG sector only needs to recognise the increased portability of products, mobile ordering and payment, social media campaigns, the growing incidence of working from home and from different locations, commuting over bigger distances, and of course the street-food revolution. There are many factors at play that can only give us all a growing appetite for a breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks on the go.”