It’s a fact that shoppers shop by mission and meal occasion and not by product or category - the mission being the reason for shoppers visiting a store, and the occasion the reason for what shoppers purchase, writes HIM’s Sarah Ashworth.

While ‘top up’ remains the most valuable mission to UK convenience in 2014 (£12.3bn) and ‘newsagent’ the second most valuable (£8.1bn), it’s the ‘meal for tonight’ and ‘food to go’ missions that are seeing the strongest growth year-on-year, and this is set to continue. By 2018, HIM predicts that together they will be worth a staggering £9.6bn - accounting for just under a third of trade spend. This represents a huge growth in the convenience channel for meal occasions and highlights the opportunity to satisfy this rising demand.

In our latest Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP 2014), shoppers identified six key meal occasions they shop for on a weekly basis in UK c-stores: ‘quick and easy’; ‘meal for one’; ‘food to-go’; ‘packed lunch’; ‘home-made meal’ and ‘snack’. With shoppers increasingly seeking more convenient meal solutions to cater for today’s hectic lifestyles, it’s no surprise that the ‘quick and easy’ meal occasion is the largest of the occasions, worth a massive £7.6bn to UK convenience alone.

Why are meal occasions so important and why should they be a focus? Ultimately, if you get meal occasions right in your stores they will help drive footfall to your stores and increase spend per customer.

If you wish to drive meal occasions in your store, it is essential to engage with and inspire shoppers at every possible touch point - at home (through leaflets and coupons), en route to store (through signage, proximity marketing) and, of course, in store. In-store merchandising by meal occasion can help frame shoppers’ mind-sets by offering total meal solutions, and this also provides the opportunity to cross department boundaries and drive sales for products across the store.

The need to grab the attention of shoppers who are time-poor also means convenient options should be conveniently located, so merchandising meal solutions at the front of store can make convenience shopping even easier. All of this should be supported with top class promotions.