If you're not already offering food to go in your store, now is the time to take the plunge, if only on a small, entry-level scale

Retailers of all sizes can benefit from the demand for food to go. Whether you're looking to take that first step into the category by offering a basic range of hot and cold products, or want to take your current offering to the next level by catering for an early evening trade, there's an option out there for you.
The category is in a healthy position to provide independent retailers with a fair slice of the profits, according to Country Choice bosses. Managing Director Raj Tugnait explains: "Overall the market is very buoyant. Retailers' offerings are getting better all the time. There are still retailers, however, who need to up their game in terms of range and presentation to make the most of the category."
Tugnait says there's been a real resurgence in bread and bakery products in recent months. He adds that merchandising must play a key part in winning customers' faith in such products.
"It's very important for shoppers to see the products displayed well," he says. "Country Choice has just undertaken a nine-month project looking at revamping our range and merchandising units. The new units now have a much more natural look, with a wicker design on a metal frame. We've also introduced clear packaging in order to show off the products. Whereas shoppers were once happy to buy something mainly because of the convenience factor, there's a lot more choice out there now, so quality has become far
more important."
Through its Bake & Bite brand, the company recently launched its 'coffee & doughnut' concept. It has also announced plans to expand into Northern Ireland for the first time and is continuing to develop its 'shop within a shop' format, with a self-serve version proving popular with retailers.
For retailers looking for a lower entry level into the food-to-go category, Kepak Convenience Foods recommends installing an in-store microwave which customers can use to heat the chilled product range. Convenience business unit controller Aoife Kenny says: "Our products don't fit into the traditional hot food-to-go category but providing a top of the range food-to-go counter is not for every retailer. Having a microwave on site provides retailers with a low-level entry into the category and allows them to compete, to an extent, with other food service operators in
their area."
Kenny adds: "Kepak is having a very good year. Our consumer penetration is growing and people are buying our products more often. With the introduction of products like our Ugo's panini range, we're experiencing incremental growth to our portfolio. Through this new range, which is predominantly aimed at young women, we're introducing a whole new group of customers to the hot snacking category."

Why not treat your customers and raise money for charity at the same time?

Next week is National Doughnut Week. Sponsored by The Children's Trust and now in its 16th year, retailers across the country are supporting the event by donating up to 10p for every doughnut they sell between May 10-17. For more details visit www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk.
class="bold">Top tips

Weekday mornings - tempt busy commuters with a range of indulgent breakfast products such as croissants, Danish pastries and easy to hold sweet snacks.
Mid-morning - capitalise on the growth in coffee culture and offer a coffee and sweet pastry takeaway deal.
Lunchtimes - bake off again late morning, ready for the lunchtime trade. This time choose quality savoury pastries that are more of a meal replacement.
Bake little and often. Fresh baking creates theatre, which adds value to the customer experience and encourages impulse purchasing.
Don't stack the products on display as they'll end up looking flat and unappealing.
Source: Bakemark UK