Tom Fender of TWC Group, which tracks OOH eating including FTG, says that the latest food-to-go and out-of-home figures from TWC’s partner, Mealtrak, show a continued out-performance from the mults (+18 per cent), while occasions in independent convenience stores have fallen over Q4 2022 by -16 per cent (12 w/e 26 December 2022).

here were 862m out-of-home/FTG occasions in the 12 weeks to 26 December: a decrease of five per cent year-on-year. At the same time, value growth, which was previously outperforming occasions growth, fell to minus-two per cent over the same period.

While the number of occasions remained fairly static, sub-channel performance varied significantly. There was a very sizeable increase in the percentage of occasions taking place in retail outlets (mainly supermarkets) – taking customers (and occasions) from traditional food-to-go outlets.

TWC found evidence that consumers are not willing to take risks in the current climate, with “something a bit different” in strong decline.

Fender suggests that this trend has been building for a few months, and some independent stores need to review their propositions, where possible.

“There is no escape from the fact that price is driving the market, with the mission for ‘something inexpensive’ continuing to grow strongly in the latest results,” Fender said. “And the multiples are tapping into this with their very competitively priced ‘meal deals’, with further discounts (in some cases) for loyalty card holders.”

The question is how can independents compete? Fender observes that consumers, while seeking value at the mults, are also increasingly opting for “quick and easy” solutions and (notably) “something sweet”, and he suggests that these could be other needs to target through the food-to-go offer. Hot pizzas, pies and curries, for example, and also dessert bars are local, neighbourhood offers that supermarkets would do hard to match in the same way that they can with sandwich and drink deals.

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