Microwaveable products provide an easy first step for retailers looking to profit from hot food to go, as Rich Airey finds out

Establishing a full food-to-go offering can seem daunting, but there is a simple way in that could help you test the water and boost your bottom line.
This easy option doesn't require huge investment or masses of space: all you need is a caterers' microwave and suitable microwaveable products. So instead of cold comfort, customers get a satisfying warm snack, or a breakfast muffin or even a quarter-pounder burger.
Kepak Convenience Foods manufactures the Rustlers microwave range of burger products. Sales director Peter Fazal believes
c-stores that sell sandwiches but not a hot snacking alternative are missing out on major profits.
"A third of all consumers who shop in convenience stores now look for easy-to-prepare hot snacks at least once a week," says Fazal. "Sandwiches are popular at certain times of the day, but too often the space allocated to sandwiches isn't working to its full potential."
The company has put £4.5m behind a marketing campaign for Rustlers this year. It's also reacted to the current health concerns by reducing the calorie, fat and salt content of its products.
"We've invested a considerable amount of time and energy in improving the quality and nutritional profile of our range," he says. "Not only does this give us a competitive advantage, it enables consumers to make a more informed choice if they take health issues into account in relation to hot snacks."
Rustlers is extending its range with the launch of a bacon quarter-pounder with cheese in September. Fazal explains that products in the Rustlers range cater for different times of the day. The new quarter-pounder joins a sausage and bacon bap, suitable for breakfast, and the chicken tikka naan, which is
geared towards early evening snacking.
He adds: "Bacon and cheese burgers are well established in the high street foodservice operators, therefore we know that our new product will appeal to frequent purchasers of hot snacks, providing a significant opportunity for growth in convenience stores looking to grow sales from the chiller cabinet."
Elsewhere in the category, Eatwell UK has given its Feasters range a makeover with new packaging and the removal of all hydrogenated fat. The company says the revamped range benefits from a stronger shelf-standout and boasts a longer shelf life.
Feasters' breakfast range has also been extended as part of the relaunch. A free-range egg, bacon and cheese muffin will now join the existing sausage and bacon breakfast bap and a 100% beef burger with bacon and cheese.
Other products to benefit from new packaging include a whole breast chicken burger, an XL 100% beef extra large burger with cheese and bbq ribsteak.
Feaster's products can typically be heated in 70-90 seconds and come with a sachet of sauce or tomato ketchup.
Eatwell UK marketing manager Paul Feery believes the range is ideal for retailers looking to boost their food-to-go offering at the same time as maximising breakfast sales. "The total market for fresh microwaveable snacks has grown by nearly 31% since January 2005, from £37.2m to £48.6m, according to TNS figures. We are looking to grow our share of this market by targeting the growing number of consumers who want a tasty, convenient breakfast option."