The food-to-go sector in the convenience channel is set to grow by 21.4% to £3.4bn in value by 2023, according to new IGD research.

The sector is currently worth £2.8bn to convenience stores, forecourts and other retailers. IGD predicts that growth will be driven by stores looking to extend their core range and move into new categories.

The total food-to-go market is currently worth £17.8bn in the UK and the IGD model expects the sector to grow at twice the rate of overall grocery retail by 2023 to £22.8bn.

IGD’s head of food-to-go Gavin Rothwell said the food-to-go market remained a strong growth opportunity that continued to provide retailers with a great source of inspiration and innovation.

He said: “As more businesses look to extend their food-to-go capability, retailers and food-to-go operators alike will look to add new capabilities to meet more missions. Specifically, food-to-go specialists as diverse as Greggs and Coco di Mama have been bolstering their coffee credentials, while convenience stores, among the most notable this year being Eat 17 and the Co-op, have focused on enhancing the range of food-to-go options on offer to meet more missions more effectively.”

Rothwell added: “The best food-to-go operators are highly attuned to the wider mindset of their shoppers. They have responded to shape their wider propositions accordingly. Increasingly this will become expected by food-to-go consumers, and those that don’t keep up will stand out.

“While online ordering and delivery is one aspect of this, perhaps in its current form the online opportunity will only be transformational for a select few. More widely however, getting into new, different types of locations, including forecourts and other travel locations, is likely to be an increasingly significant route to growth for a growing number of players in food-to-go. Across a variety of missions, locations and segments, the food-to-go market remains worthy of considerable focus and attention for those looking to grow food and drink businesses over the next five years.”

Meanwhile, Dublin-based retailer Fresh: The Good Food Market, renowned locally for its food-to-go credentials, has continued to improve its grab and go offer to help grow its business.

Speaking at this year’s IGD food to go conference, Fresh’s head of marketing and sales, Shane Bryne, said: “Food-to-go is such an important part of our business. We started in 2006 and now we have six stores across Dublin. In each of them, we have tried to evolve our range, whilst always providing convenient and delicious food that is fresh and locally sourced.

“We’ve also tried to continually improve the in-store experience for customers with shared tables, our Fresh cafés, deli and kitchen counters. We want to offer the best quality and provenance and, by taking inspiration from the food-service industry, we’re determined to stay ahead of the trends in the market and offer our customers the best possible food to go experience.”

The Co-op Group’s head of chilled Paul Cunningham agreed that food-to-go is an important category for any modern c-store.

Speaking at the event, he said: “Food-to-go is at the forefront of what we do as a convenience retailer. Our new Co-op ‘on-the-move’ concept store has been open a week in Manchester Piccadilly and it is already one of our top performing stores in terms of food-to-go.

“The store allows us to experiment with our product range and try new things. I think the lunch mission is something that we’ve got sorted but there is a real opportunity for retailers in the breakfast and impulse snacking market. For example, we’re already seeing that customers have responded well to the porridge and soups being sold in our Piccadilly store, and they know that they can coming in and get the food that they want really quickly.”