The UK food to go market will grow by up to 35% to be worth £21.7bn by 2021, rising from £16.1bn this year, according to IGD predictions.

The IGD study analysed the food-to-go market in five key areas, each one forecast for significant growth over the next five years. The segments included food to go specialists, quick service restaurants, coffee specialists, convenience and forecourt retailers, and supermarkets and hypermarkets.

Food to go specialists, currently holding market value of £4.6bn, was predicted the biggest growth of the segments and is expected to be worth £7.1bn by 2021.

Coffee specialists are expected to experience the second biggest growth, up from £2.7bn today to £3.9bn over the five-year period. Growth in the remaining segments will see quick service restaurants grow from £5bn to £6bn, convenience and forecourt retailers up from £2.5bn to £3.3bn and supermarkets and hypermarkets up from £1.2bn to £1.4bn. 

Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive, said: “Busy, flexible lifestyles mean shoppers are shopping little and often, and this culture is causing a boom in food-to-go for convenience stores, which have a strong forecasted annual compound growth of 5.8%. To ensure they meet this demand, we have seen convenience retailers introducing specialist food-to-go counters in their stores, as well tailoring their ranges to the different times of the day shoppers purchase this category. 

“Over the next five years, we are forecasting growth of up to 35% for the overall food-to-go market, providing there is a favourable economic backdrop. Suppliers are seeking ways to expand, so the growth potential of this dynamic and rapidly shifting sector represents a really clear opportunity. However, food-to-go is a different market to grocery retail and requires a distinct approach to succeed.”

Separate research from HIM Shopper Research & Consulting showed that food to go is the third most valuable shopping mission to convenience stores, driving 890 million shopping trips every year. 

Katie Littler, communications director at HIM, said: “Understanding the specific food-to-go shopper needs is the key to success; they are quite unique in terms of what they buy, their time spent in store and their purchasing decisions. A third of food to go shoppers purchased just one item in convenience stores, this isn’t the case in other food-to-go channels. There’s a big opportunity for convenience stores to focus on capturing the complete meal. 

“Food to go specialists are attracting shoppers with their range, brand, prices and service. Relying on proximity leaves us particularly vulnerable to new competition in the area, including delivery apps which mean shoppers don’t even need to leave their work/home. Convenience stores need to identify a food to go USP.”