Covid-19 takes £6bn bite out of food-to-go

Spar Havannah St

The UK food-to-go market is set to shrink by £6bn in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Lumina Intelligence UK Food-to-go Market Report 2020 Update.

However, the report forecasts that turnover of the food-to-go market will recover to close to its 2019 level by the end of 2022.

The UK food-to-go market experienced a decade of growth through the 2010s. Lumina Intelligence valued the market at £21.3bn for full year 2019, a growth of +2.4%. However, the catastrophic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is set to wipe £6bn off the market value in 2020. This equates to a decline of -29%, taking the market value to £15bn.

Relative to the overall eating out market, food-to-go is somewhat insulated and as a result this decline is lower than that forecasted for the total sector. Consequently, the share of the total eating out market held by food-to-go, is set to increase to 27.4%, up from 23.3% in 2019.

With advice to ‘stay at home’, the coronavirus pandemic restricted movement for most. The number of people working from home in the UK reached a peak of 60%, causing a significant decline in city centre footfall. The average number of food-to-go visits per consumer per month has dropped 25% year-on-year, with lunch the most affected, with a fall in frequency of -37%.

Coffee shops/cafés have been the strongest performers over the last year, increasing share across all day parts but most significantly at dinner (+1.7pp). In terms of overall share, convenience store grab and go dominates the market at a value of £5bn – representing a 33% share of the total market in 2020.

Despite a significant reduction in value this year, the food-to-go market is set to recover quickly due to its versatility, low contact and value-led proposition. By the end of 2021, Lumina Intelligence forecasts the market to be worth £21.2bn, just behind 2019 turnover of £21.3bn and a growth of +41% vs. 2020 forecasts.

Blonnie Walsh, Head of Insight at Lumina Intelligence, said: “The sudden shift from a highly transient, on-the-go society, to one with restrictions placed on movement has had a catastrophic impact on the UK food-to-go market. With much of the UK workforce working from home or furloughed, footfall in city centres nose-dived.

“However, the sudden setback is not expected to last. The food-to-go market is forecast to grow by over 40% in 2021, returning the market value to around the 2019 level. The very nature of food-to-go, whereby it is not consumed on premise, it is relatively inexpensive and much of the customer base of the major players are already back at work, means the sector is well insulated for a swift recovery.”