The cost-of-living crisis is changing how shoppers engage with all categories, but few are under more pressure than food to go. Will shoppers buy food to go more often as costs rise, switching from buying evening meals out to a more affordable lunchtime treat? Or will they leave the category altogether and prepare more food at home?

Food-to-go shopping behaviour and needs

Meal Trak data from TWC shows food-to-go occasions in out-of-home establishments including sandwich shops (-11%), coffee shops/cafes (-7%) and high street (-17%) are all in decline. However, forecourts (+29%) and convenience stores (+8%) are rebounding well post-pandemic, with an increase in food-to-go occasions in the latest 12 weeks compared to 2021*1

The desire for consumers to treat themselves by trading up is now giving way to the need ‘to cut costs’ for ‘speed’ and for ‘something that will be filling’. The shift to mainstream ‘on the go’ and transient retailers particularly highlights this trend.

There is evidence to suggest that in a time of reduced spending, consumers will continue to seek these low-value treats and rewards, often referred to as the ‘lipstick effect’.

Price

Price is a crucial factor in any purchase decision and is becoming increasingly important as shoppers tighten their belts. Research from IGD shows that lunch on the go has the highest tolerance to price rises of all the out-of-home eating occasions*4

Shoppers are willing to accept these increases due to the lower initial price of meal deals. They are justifying paying more per meal due to hybrid working, which results in fewer days in the office and less purchase frequency.

Shoppers favour meal deals due to their money-saving nature, with 53% only buying items included in a meal deal when purchasing lunch*4. However, there is also growing demand for more variety in the fixture while maintaining value for money.

Shoppers are looking to brands and retailers that can provide them with variety, inspiration, and value for money. With price increases inevitable, expanding the range to offer products of perceived higher quality – at a higher individual purchase price – retains the overall value-for-money proposition. With these higher-priced additions, the savings achievable through a meal deal when purchased with a drink and a snack quickly become apparent.

MTJ is well versed in seeking opportunities for our clients that align to the latest issues impacting the industry. For more information on how we can help you and your brand, get in touch with us!

Sources:
1
TWC – Meal Track 8th August 2022 - Food-to-go mission changing.
2
Nielsen Total Micro Snacking, 52 & 12WE 3rd September 2022.
3
Kantar Worldpanel Division, Usage, Total In Home / Carried Out, Total Convenience Brands, 52we 8th Aug 2021
4
IGD Research - Shoppers who regularly buy lunch to eat on the go – 18th to 19th July 2022.