Data and digital consultancy TWC, in partnership with food-to-go and out-of-home tracking programme MealTrak, has revealed that the food-to-go market has grown by 9% in value within independent convenience stores in the latest 12 weeks (vs. the same period a year ago). However, the total market across all channels has grown by 31% over the same period, and total grocery retail outlets have grown even more at 51%.

This is said to have been driven by particularly strong performance for both discounters (+81%) and multiple convenience stores (+63%), suggesting that independent convenience stores are not getting their ‘fair share’ of food-to-go growth.

“Most convenience stores did extremely well over the pandemic, growing sales and attracting new customers. It was understandable that many retailers opted to scale back their food-to-go offer at that time as consumers weren’t commuting or getting out and about very much, rather they were preparing most of their meals at home. But what we have seen in the last few months is the rapid return of consumers eating food-to-go again,” said Tom Fender, Development Director at TWC.

“We all know the discounters have been attracting new shoppers as well as benefiting from returning lapsed shoppers. This always happens during economically challenging times. But discounters are not renowned for selling food-to-go items, so this should be a slight warning to local convenience operators that discounters are now competing on this mission too. Local independents should always have the advantage of knowing what’s happening in their local area and adapting their offer accordingly. Conversely, discounters are large corporations and therefore cannot flex their range to the same extent.”

He added: “Obviously the issue of prices, price image and inflation are creating a perfect storm right now, so independent retailers will need to think about marketing within their communities. Most shoppers travel less than half a mile to get to their c-store, so store catchments are tight, and this gives retailers permission to talk about value-for-money by shopping locally.

“This is the ideal time for independent retailers to review their food-to-go range in line with what’s happening in the market to maximise this opportunity. This will include in-store fixtures and ranging as well as external comms. Now is the time to grab food-to-go sales. Whilst many consumers are tightening their belts, food to go is more insulated due to its lower ticket nature vs. other eating out occasions – and it also offers respectable margins for retailers.”

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