Keeping up with the food-to-go shopper through COVID-19 and beyond

Rhian Thomas
Head of Insight - ShopperVista & FTG

Date : 22 September 2020

We are really pleased to be able to finally share with you our UK food-to-go market forecasts. These forecasts have been months in the making with the team thinking through the potential scenarios as to how the balance of 2020 and the next two years could pan out.

The challenges of 2020 for food-to-go are well known and we believe the impact of COVID-19 will continue to be felt over the next three years. We predict that the sector will decline by 43% to £10.8bn in 2020 – a decrease of £8.1bn on 2019.

In 2021 we anticipate the market bouncing back a little however, in 2022 – despite continued high growth rates – the market will only return to 88% of 2019 levels, valued at £16.7bn.

Changing food-to-go missions

Unsurprisingly, the dramatic changes in the daily lives and routines of shoppers meant seismic shifts in our food-to-go tracking data; in quarter one of 2020 69% of food-to-go shoppers told us they had bought lunch-to-go in the last four weeks, this fell to just over half (51%) in quarter two. 

The move to home working and significant drops in commuters has meant that many of the habitual food-to-go missions shoppers completed daily stopped overnight and the likely gradual return of workers to city centre locations will mean these changes will not be quick to reverse.

However, our tracking data has also highlighted some new food-to-go opportunities and space for further innovation.  From quarter one to quarter two of this year we saw an increase in the proportion of shoppers turning to food-to-go products as part of an evening meal solution. Food-to-go products offer shoppers the ultimate convenience, so at a time when eating at home is the norm for most the majority of the time solutions that require no preparation and break up that norm are likely to appeal.

During the last six months we have seen shoppers make the most of each shopping trip- at the start of lockdown that meant larger baskets but for food-to-go that has meant an increase in mission cross-over.

When you last purchased food-to-go was that on….

IGD ShopperVista Food-to-go

We predict that shoppers will not revert to shopping as frequently as they did pre-COVID-19 and so the mission cross over could continue for some months. This will mean that maximizing opportunities through in-store category adjacencies will help to remind shoppers and will not only help shoppers complete planned purchases but also help drive impulse purchases.

Looking to the future

As our forecasts detail the recovery is unlikely to be quick however, staying close to the shopper and consumer is vital to be able to navigate these challenging times.

Our Shoppers of Our Time research found that nearly half of 18-34 year olds expect to be working from home more in the future. These changes in work patterns will mean that while many may not be able to pop out to grab their lunch-to-go they may be looking for convenient local or delivery-based solutions. We expect developments in technology and delivery solutions to underpin many developments in this market in the coming months and years. 

Changes in lifestyles will create new occasions which will require convenient and appealing solutions, we have already seen significant changes in day part missions for food-to-go and where this goes next we will be keeping a very close eye on.

Want to know more?

  • ShopperVista subscribers can access our food-to-go shopper research here
  • Retail Analysis subscribers can read the full UK food-to-go market 2020 report here
  • Not a Retail Analysis subscriber? Contact us to purchase a copy of the report


Our food-to-go predictions for 2020 and beyond. This year our report considers four possible scenarios for the future of food-to-go from 2020-2022.

Get the latest industry news and insights straight to your inbox with our range of newsletters.

ShopperVista is a paid for subscription service delivering future insights on what’s influencing shoppers, pre, during and post shop. To find out more about the service, and how to subscribe, please contact us.