The UK food to go sector has been tipped to grow 3.5% in 2024, reaching a value of £23bn, according to a new report.

The Lumina Intelligence UK Food to Go Market Report revealed that the sector is expected to grow ahead of the total eating out market and inflation, indicating growth from stronger volumes following a weaker 2023.

It also predicted that the number of food to go outlets would increase, 0.7% to 152,783 outlets, driven by the expansion of a variety of formats and locations including travel hub, drive-thru and kiosk-style services.

This predicted growth marks a resurgence following 2023 which saw the cost-of-living crisis hinder progress. It reported that the food to go market has been restricted by a slow return to travel, strike action and continued hybrid working, with financial strain prompting changes in spending habits, and found that the most notable areas impacted for food to go has been lower income families dropping out of lunchtime occasions with declines in share focused on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The report found that convenience store grab and go achieved strong food to go growth versus pre-covid, driven by investment in ranges and value and that value growth is expected to have been +17.4% from 2019-2024F. It attributed the introduction of tiered meal deal ranges to allow grocery operators to avoid hiking costs of meal deals whilst introducing more premium and foodservice-standard ranges.

It also revealed that demands for nuanced health and premium quality is driving new product development in the market, with most new products surveyed aligned with healthier eating, carrying price points of +£4.00. Vegan, high protein and high fibre products all gained share year-on-year while gut health and immune system boosting products were new to ranges in 2024. It believes that limited edition ranges are expected to become more important, with these products focusing on elevated and innovative flavour combinations, generating hype and driving footfall.

Looking beyond 2024, Lumina Intelligence believes that the sector could reach a market value of £25bn by 2027, citing easing economic tailwinds, boosted tourism and travel and record employment.

It predicts that average earnings outpacing inflation alongside interest rate reductions will help “bolster consumer spending power over the next three years” while greater emergence of nutrient dense, high quality and specialised options alongside continued strong outlet expansion will drive food to go market growth.