C-store retailers need to “step up their game” to capitalise on the growing food-to-go market, with the decline in food to go missions in convenience suggesting shoppers are looking elsewhere, according to new HIM research.

HIM’s latest Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP) revealed that just 13% of all shopping trips in the convenience channel in 2018 include the food-to-go mission – down from 20% in 2014.

Val Kirillovs, research & insights director at HIM, said: “Food-to-go is a growing consumption occasion but the convenience channel appears to have not yet tapped into this opportunity.

“Our data highlights that operators within convenience need to step up their game to satisfy the evolving needs of the food-to-go shopper or else they will lose them to the competition. Work is needed in areas like freshness, ingredient quality and health.”

The 2018 MCA Food to Go Market Report predicts that the food-to-go market is set to grow by 2.8% to a value of £20.7bn during the year, outpacing the expected 1.5% growth in eating out as a whole.

The HIM research also identified a promising group of high-spending shoppers, making up 20% of all convenience shoppers and spending £19 per trip (compared to £6.50 spent by the average c-store shopper). These high-spending shoppers comprise two main types: the ‘busy smoker’, who is slightly younger, more likely to be male, less affluent, works full time and smokes; and the ’top-up legend’, who is older, female, more affluent, more likely to be retired and doesn’t smoke.

Kirillovs added: “Retailers need to make sure they identify these high-value shoppers and understand their needs in order to maximise the sales potential associated with this shopper group.”

Conducted through over 20,000 face-to-face shopper interviews, across 1,400 different convenience stores with 26 different fascias, CTP benchmarks competitors in the convenience channel across different formats and for numerous categories within food, drink and tobacco.

For more information on the CTP report, contact HIM through its website.