The UK’s hot and cold ‘grab and go’ market is now valued at more than £20bn. Consumers want “food on the move” at all hours of the day and the pressure is on to innovate with tasty products and seductive displays.

According to IGD ShopperVista, there are five different occasions for food-to-go shoppers: breakfast, drinks, lunch, snacks and leisure. The survey found that 28% of the UK’s adult population has bought a product on the go for breakfast in the past month – a figure that rises to 70% for lunch.

Country Choice, a supplier of in-store bakery and retail foodservice products, estimates annual growth of 3% in grab and go food as consumers move away from formal eating at home and at sit-down restaurants. Neil Lindsell, Country Choice concepts development manager for foodservice, says: “When it comes to grab and go, consumers are becoming more and more switched on and, although value for money remains their prime consideration, they will pay more for a quality product.”

Meal deal promotions are becoming increasingly important, for example, discounting coffee prices if a customer purchases a food item.

Kerrymaid has developed a range of Mexican dishes that are ideal for the grab and go category, including burritos, tortillas and Mexican-style paella.  Lalor, brand development manager for Kerrymaid, says: “It is important for caterers to acknowledge new burger trends to extend their on-the-go offering. Burger seasonings, toppings and buns are evolving into taste experiences from around the world, as flavours from Japan, Korea and the US hit the burger market in the UK.”

Mission Foodservice identifies Mexican cuisine as one to watch for grab and go. Mission’s Super Soft wraps are flexible, foldable and easier to fill, making a perfect partner for Mexican cuisine. Refried beans, guacamole, salsa and cheese can be added to a range of meat and vegetarian fillings.

Carluccio’s new concept, Via Carluccio’s, has been launched in response to the food-to-go boom, open for breakfast through to afternoon snacks. Products include gluten-free Italian bean pots, packed with borlotti beans and a choice of toppings, and porridge pots topped with blueberries.

Alistair Whitaker, category manager at Freshtime. Whitaker has identified double-digit year-on-year growth in a grab and go salad with pasta-based products the main base ingredients with over 60% share. Main category growth is coming from the grains, rice and pulses ingredients sub-category.

With customer expectations increasing, the selection of food has been cost-effective and having too many choices can affect quality and customers. The grab and go market is predicted to be cashless by 2018. Cash will make up less than 30% of all transactions across the retail sector.

Working lunches

Jacqui Mee, director of food at Olive Catering Services, says: “In a busy office environment, we find that many people require meals that can be eaten on the go or at their desk. Making sure we supply convenient selections has become essential and caterers are moving past the typical offerings, such as cereal bars, to fresh and exciting alternatives – like readymade granola pots – throughout the day.” Changes in dining habits and work means office workers are a key market.

There is a shift towards healthier products where calories are important but there is also demand for products that are gluten-free, vegan or made with non-GMO ingredients. One in every three people are now choosing food and drink which is ‘free from’.