Why the food-to-go boom may be bad news for retail

One in 10 shoppers have said they are spending less on food to prepare and eat at home because they are splashing out on food-to-go instead.

That is one of the key findings of a new study by shopper behaviour insight specialist Shoppercentric, which said younger consumers were at the heart of the trend.

Researchers found that 60% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 58% of 25- to 34-year-olds had bought food to eat on-the-go in a coffee shop or sandwich shop, compared with 31% of the 55-64 age group and 27% of the over-65s.

Age was also a factor when it came to delivered food, with 44% of the 25-34 age group saying they had food delivered to their home or office in the past month by the likes of Deliveroo, Uber Eats, or Domino’s, a proportion that fell to 33% of the 35-44 age group and 25% of the 45-54 age group.

Meanwhile, demand for delivered food has been growing, with a fifth of respondents (19%) saying they were having food delivered “way more” than two years ago, and a quarter (25%) “a little more” than two years ago.

“Widening choice, easy accessibility, and pricing to cater for all tastes and budgets means many shoppers relying on ‘food-to-go’ believe their spending in those outlets will increase, which likely means more pressure on grocery spending,” said Shoppercentric managing director Jamie Rayner.

He added that, most worryingly for grocery retailers, was the fact that Millennials (born in the 1980s and early 1990s) and Generation Z (born in mid- to late-1990s), were driving the trend.

“They are the age groups who are most likely to have eaten food when out, or that was prepared away from the home. They are doing this more often and they are the ones most likely to say food-to-go is causing them to spend less on groceries.”

Rayner believed food-to-go was unlikely to be a passing fad.

“The fact that the food-to-go category is embracing healthier options and sustainability more quickly than grocery retailers means that no one in the grocery sector can afford to turn a blind eye to this challenge.

“For the supermarkets, food-to-go is a competitor hiding in plain sight and presents a growing challenge to which they need to rise.”

The Shoppercentric study followed an online survey with 1,024 shoppers who were responsible for most of the grocery shopping in their household.

  • Delivered food is among the topics explored by baking industry experts in British Baker’s Bakery Trends Report, which can be downloaded free of charge.

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