The days when young shoppers would settle for tomato soup and a cheese & onion pasty are long gone. Priyanka Jethwa speaks to millennials to discover the latest trends that are driving growth in the food-to-go category

The Blogger: Radhika Kotak

Food blogger at @forfoodsakelondon

“It’s really important that retailers get their range right and keep up with the latest trends millennials are buying into. This year there’s been a rise not only in gluten-free and vegetarian foods, but in coffee chains offering turmeric-infused drinks, as well as kombucha and nitro coffee. When I’m going into a store now, I tend to look for options that I can’t get anywhere else, and I believe if independent retailers tap into this, they’ll be surprised by how much repeat footfall they’ll generate.”

The Working Woman: Jessica Matharoo

Digital marketing executive based in Ascot 

“Being based out of the city, it’s sometimes hard to find an interesting range of food-to-go options in my local store. I don’t want to eat the same sandwich every day. It would be great if shops started to stock things like sushi and pizza, something that is a little different. If they started doing that, I would definitely visit more. This year, there has been a big emphasis on global flavours, such as katsu curry and foods like halloumi, and whereas all the big chains are doing it, it’s an area some local shops need to work on.”

The Expert: Isla Owen

Head of brand at Adelie Foods

More millennials are following flexitarian diets, and they remain the largest demographic who do so. This trend has become a lifestyle to many, and in response to this, we launched five new vegan products to market this year, comprising new and exciting flavours such as barbecued jackfruit, as well as having just launched a new Christmas vegan sandwich. At the moment, we’re working on developing a street food range to cater to this millennial demographic and are taking steps to experiment with bold flavours such as chicken katsu curry. But alongside having a range of food-to-go options, we have also identified 35% of shoppers are now using snacks as meal replacements, and they’re looking for protein-rich options. Breakfast sales are also on the rise by 20%, so it’s important convenience retailers are getting their breakfast food-to-go offer right.

Find your perfect solution: 

Hot food to go

Mid-morning to mid-afternoon availability is the key to sandwich success


Offering a range of freshly-baked hot food-to-go products is a simple, cost-effective way for retailers to attract new shoppers and increase basket spend at lunchtime. 

One way retailers can capitalise is by installing a hot food counter that shoppers will recognise. Mary Byrne, trade marketing manager at Aryzta, says: “We have a variety of options for retailers, from purchasing ovens and equipment, to schemes where retailers who work with us and meet the appropriate level of sales can loan equipment from us through a partnership agreement.” For retailers, this can mean the only cost they may have to consider is purchasing stock and dedicating some staff time to bake off and set up the display.

Don’t forget breakfast

Only 15% of food-to-go sales take place in the evening, so it’s important to concentrate on the other times of the day. Although breakfast starts early and continues into mid-morning, Hannah Morter, marketing executive at Country Range, says lunchtime now starts at around 11am and retailers must ensure their offer reflects this. “About 40% of sandwiches are bought outside of the traditional lunch period, so mid-morning to mid-afternoon availability is key to maximise sales,” she says. 

“However, to really maximise sales, it’s vital to offer meal deals involving cakes and pastries. The actual discount does not need to be great – this is all about making it easier for the shopper through merchandising and PoS.”

Breakfast bars, such as Belvita, are also a great impulse line to stock at the counter, particularly if you’re a store that caters for commuters.

Tasty hydration

The health trend currently dominating the sector means people are conscious of what they are putting in their bodies. 

Ed Jones, senior customer marketing manager at Vimto Soft Drinks, says the flavoured water category is growing at 2%, showing this demand for options that are perceived as healthier. “These consumers have often traded out of other categories into water, and that’s why we’ve introduced Vim2o. Vim2o contains no added sugar and is aimed at health-conscious people who want to stay hydrated throughout the day without compromising on taste.”

Global flavours

Millennials continue to be intrigued by cuisines from different cultures, underlined by the explosion in street food vendors and restaurants offering a diverse range of world foods, particularly Pan-Asian dishes. 

urban-noodles.pngJason Beaumont, director at PWbrands, which owns Urban Noodles, says Thai cuisine has seen some of the biggest growth. He adds that consumers are more willing than ever to experiment with new flavours and ingredients when they eat out and they expect the same flavour innovation in food-to-go choices from their local convenience store. “We always advise retailers to signpost food to go clearly and group relevant products together, for example, placing Urban Noodle next to other food-to-go options and instant meals.”

A range of snacks

Cereal bars are an easy snack for millennials on the move. The total cereal and snacking bars sector is worth £500m and is growing at 6%. 

Helena Blincow, marketing manager for Alpen, says in terms of flavours, salted caramel has been
a winner this year among younger demographics. “Salted Caramel has been a favourite flavour with consumers across many different categories, and sitting under the umbrella of dessert flavours, these as a whole within the cereal bar market have been growing in the past year. Our Salted Caramel product is now worth almost £1m and was introduced to tap into this key market trend for more dessert flavours,” she says.