Val Kirillovs, research & insight director, Him & MCA Insight, on challenges and opportunities for the bakery food-to-go market.

Food-to-go continues to be an important sector for the eating-out market, with growth forecast to accelerate in 2019 as the sector continues to outperform the total category.

For bakery, there are significant growth opportunities forecast across the next three years. By 2022, c-stores  and supermarkets will account for 35% of food-to-go, and sandwich/bakery retailers will have 15% – a combined value of £11.6bn, up £1.8bn on 2019.

However, the picture isn’t necessarily as bright as anticipated. The MCA Bakery & Sandwich Tracker Q4 2018 report shows the number of eating-out visits involving bakery items dropped by 4% to 1.4 billion in Q4 2018. This was strongly affected by consumers reducing their snacking occasions, the most significant bakery day-part, as more customers looked after their waistlines and wallets.

Cookies were the number one sweet bakery item, bought on 3.5% of all out-of-home meal and snack occasions, but the category has lost share since Q4 2017. Consumers opted for more indulgent sweet bakery options during the quarter, choosing cake and cheesecake with both items winning share at breakfast and snacking, while doughnuts grew at lunch and dinner.

Overall, sweet bakery suffered declines, and savoury bakery propped up the sector. Winning savoury items included sausage rolls, bagels, wraps, panini, pasties, pies and croissants, all of which gained share compared to a year ago. The growth of sausage rolls and pasties was driven by success in Greggs.

Health is a key trend that continues to make an impact on the food-to-go sector, and shoppers are generally willing to spend more on healthy than unhealthy food. For example,

the average shopper would be willing to spend £1.44 on a single snack, but a healthy snacking shopper would be willing to spend £1.84 (Him Healthy Snacking Report 2018).

The rise of the health agenda can pose a threat to some sub-categories of the bakery sector, but those best placed to grow are prepared for the challenges ahead. Health-conscious shoppers are not opposed to indulgence and treats, so how you position your products can be key to driving sales.

Catering for all consumers in the current climate is incredibly challenging. Focusing and executing a service aimed at one consumer demographic can often be more successful than trying to please everyone.

Note: An extended version of this article is in the 2019 Bakery Market Report – available free to British Baker subscribers here.