Convenience stores and supermarkets are predicted to suffer from the rise of food to go and other on-the-go services, but top stores and suppliers aren’t standing still. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski takes a look at their strategies

Food-to-go specialists will, according to IGD, grow at twice the rate of overall grocery. This translates as an extra £5bn, bringing the channel up to an annual net value of nearly £23bn. 

It is further proof that Britons’ busier lives are changing the convenience channel. 

So, what do retailers do? Thankfully many suppliers are hard at work providing products and merchandising options that are meeting the changing behaviours of customers. 

Meanwhile, many stores are evolving the way they operate in order to compete with a changing marketplace. RN has hunted out some great examples of these changes happening today. 

What are suppliers doing?

Starting the day well

Though its importance is never in doubt, breakfast continues to fall victim to those of us who spend our lives rushing from here to there. According to Mondelez, the on-the-go breakfast is currently seeing double-digit growth, and its Belvita breakfast biscuits now lead the healthy biscuits and breakfast biscuits category, it says. The biscuits come in four varieties in multipacks and individual formats. Kepak, meanwhile, has launched its microwavable All Day Breakfast Sausage Muffin this year. Adrian Lawlor, Kepak convenience foods’ marketing and business development director, says the new product is aimed at helping stores compete with the likes of Greggs and McDonald’s. 

Rustlers.jpgGoing premium

As more of us look for quick meal options as work and leisure time blurs further, big snack brands are hoping to grow their appeal by providing premium options. Unilever, for example, is bringing its Pot Rice brand back with three upmarket flavours: Vegetable Curry, Chicken Teriyaki and Chicken Risotto. It follows the launch of Pot Pasta in 2017, which Unilever says brought 76% incremental growth to the category. Kepak is another company to make this move with Rustler’s Flame Grilled range being joined by a Gourmet range, complete with brioche buns. 

Keeping hydrated

The recent heatwave highlighted how having a drink ready wherever you are is vital – but this is true all through the year, and soft drinks are one of the biggest footfall drivers in the market. Boost’s recent Cosmic Glow energy drink is just the latest example of how big brands are adapting
to provide both refreshment and an energy increase to hard-working people. Danone, meanwhile, highlights the breadth of customer demands with recent launches including an iced tea, Volvic Organic Tea Infusions, and a wide-ranging Danone of the World brand. Products in this range include Iceland-inspired Skyr, an Indian-style Lassi and an Ayran product, popular in the Middle East.

What retailers are doing?

How I’ve evolved: Bring in a Post Office 

Mital Morar, Ancoats
General Stores, Manchester  

One of the big changes we’ve made is introducing the Post Office. A lot of people don’t want to go into town and think the Post Office will always have long queues, but it’s changing and we’re able to offer business banking, online shopping and parcel delivery, and our extended hours mean that it works for our shoppers, too. For us, it’s easily become part of our daily routine. Everything is changing and how do we combat it? We’ll always be a bricks and mortar business, but this counter has helped us evolve our offer. 

How I’ve evolved my store: Include a hot dogs range 

Vicky Singh 
Londis Mitcham, Surrey

A year ago we added Rollover hot dogs to our store and we’ve now been told we’re one of the biggest sellers in our region – we can sell as many as 87 units on a good day. Workmen are big buyers and kids love it, but we also sell a lot to mothers coming home after dropping their kids off at school. It’s easy to manage and each hot dog sells for £1.99, on which we get a 45% net profit. On top of this, we’ve seen an increase in our ready meal sales after growing our range of Discover the Choice products. Chicken Tikka Masala is the big seller.

How I’ve evolved: Focus on fresh

Steve Haines
The Broads, Coltishall, Norwich 

Our customers shop with us for the things they’ve forgotten to pick up, so we’re looking to extend our fresh range, using our 3.5m fridge more efficiently to offer more. Accessing the Co-op range through Costcutter is going to make this even easier. Part of the reason for doing this is because, though people are busier than ever, we’re in a rural area and people still want to cook their meals from scratch. We’ve tried ready meals a few times, but they don’t work for our store. ​​​​​​​

What suppliers are doing 

Making temptation convenient

Joy-Fills.jpgEating breakfast and lunch and finding convenient healthier options might be key to living on the go, but opportunities to have a sweet treat during a busy day can make the difference between a good day and a bad. In August, Mondelez launched Joyfills – bite-sized biscuit pillows with flavoured creme centres. Varieties include Oreo, Oreo Choco Caramel Creme, Cadbury Milk Chocolate Creme and Cadbury Choco Cookie Creme, and each comes in a 90g format and a case size of eight, all with a £1.50 RRP. “We’re so excited to bring something truly innovative to the biscuit market,” Carly Sharpe, Joyfills brand manager at Mondelez International, says.

Building protein

Protein.pngUnveiling his new updated store format, Londis boss Martin Swadling confirmed that protein products now needed to be core category for modern convenience stores. One of the beneficiaries of this has been Grenade, the company behind the Carb Killa range of bars, milkshakes and spreads. At the heart of this is the Carb Killa Protein Bar, which comes in 12 varieties. The company says that 80% of spend in the market is incremental, ensuring confectionery spend is not damaged by the arrival of protein products in store.  

Staying nutritious

Graze.pngIf we are indeed busier than ever, then this is a trend matched only by our increased health concerns. For those who can manage it, squaring the circle of convenient, quick food that is also good for us is extremely profitable. One contender is PWbrands’ Epicure range: “We recognise that consumers’ time is precious. However, we believe they can still cook nutritious home-made meals quickly using kitchen staples,” says Jason Beaumont, the company’s director.