Food-to-go sales will grow by more than £5bn in the next five years, according to grocery research and training charity IGD.

Food-to-go specialists – such as Pret A Manger, Greggs and Subway – are expected to be the fastest-growing part of the market, with sales predicted to rise from £4.6bn this year to £7.1bn in 2021.

Coffee specialists are tipped to be the next fastest growth area, and supermarkets the slowest (see table below).

“Suppliers are seeking ways to expand, so the growth potential of this dynamic and rapidly shifting sector represents a clear opportunity,” said IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch. “However, food-to-go is a different market to grocery retail and requires a distinct approach to succeed.”

She said the continued growth of ‘coffee culture’ was driving a strong performance from the food-to-go and coffee specialist segments.

“Shoppers are also beginning to adopt food-to-go as a lifestyle choice, which presents a clear opportunity for these operators,” she added. “Coffee specialists are responding to this by focusing more on food and improved lunchtime options.”

Quick-service restaurants are benefiting from the increasingly hectic lifestyle of consumers, with IGD finding that 92% of shoppers said speed of service was key to their food-to-go experience. IGD found that 20% of shoppers were purchasing lunch on-the-go more than twice a week.

Denney-Finch added that segment growth was also being driven by “a new, modern generation of burger bars and an increased focus on healthier options”.

IGD said the trend for shopping little and often had brought a boom in food-to-go for convenience stores, with retailers introducing specialist food-to-go counters and tailoring ranges to different times of the day.

Supermarkets and hypermarkets have also been trialling new formats, counters and ideas in-store, which IGD said had appealed to shoppers, with 30% of consumers saying supermarkets were their favourite place to buy a drink on the go, and 27% saying they were their first choice for breakfast on the go.

IGD pointed out that, while the food-to-go category is supported by strong fundamentals, it is impossible to predict the overall economic impact of Brexit. As a result, it has based its forecasts on stated and anticipated growth plans for key operators and existing economic forecasts.

Food-to-go market growth 2016-2021