Convenience remains king in the eyes of today’s consumer, but things have changed; convenience no longer means unhealthy, guilty or simple, ‘quick and easy’ fixes.
The UK food-to-go market is said to be valued at £20bn (The Caterer, 2016), with most on-the-go consumption taking place during lunch and breakfast. According to 2016 research, nearly three quarters of us purchase food on-the-go at least once a week. The size and scale of opportunity is reflected in the amount of innovation that can be seen in this market. The level of innovation reflects consumers’ desire for a combination of healthy, minimally processed, ‘crafty’ (giving the impression that the product isn’t mass-produced, even if it is) and experimental/fusion in what they eat. Trends including paleo (and other high-protein diets), vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, non-British and functional foods (food naturally high in or enhanced with added nutrients) are all present on supermarkets’ on-the-go shelves.
For the industry, grab-and-go occasions can be split into five main categories: breakfast, lunch, drinks, snacks and leisure. For breakfast occasions, examples of on-the-go innovations include chia pots, oaty breakfast drinks, coconut yogurts and bircher mueslis. For snacks, consumers graze on protein flapjacks, jerky, vegetable crisps and popcorn. Liquid innovations include cold brew coffees, soups in bottles, kefir and yogurt drinks whereas on-the-go shelves now feature innovations such as focaccia sandwiches, flatbreads and sushi hand rolls. On-the-go leisure products may include non-everyday, more indulgent or specialised items such as street food innovations, including Mexican/South American, fusion foods and bubble waffles.
However, on-the-go or grab-and-go don’t have to be synonymous with shop-bought, ready-made food. Blenders are perfect for making liquid breakfasts, exciting salad dressings or finishing off a creamy soup, ready for the thermos flask. Batch-making, e.g. of protein bars, stews and curries or lasagne, and freezing meals are other ideal ways of creating homemade convenience. The trick is in the planning.