ShelfNow connects Buyers with Producers, and helps them trade directly. But we don’t limit ourselves to just connecting, we also serve up our market research team insights, using our data analytics tools to glean the latest trends and opportunities for Buyers and Producers.

Right now, the biggest growth opportunity in the food and beverage sector is the grab-and-go market.

The UK grab-and-go market is currently valued at more than £20 billion, and estimated to keep growing at an annual rate of 3% as consumers move away from more formal meals at home, and in sit-down restaurants.

At this point the grab-and-go market is on firm footing and customers reliably turn to these products for five types of occasions: breakfast, drinks, lunch, snacks, and leisure. According to a survey conducted by ShopperVista, 70% of the UK adult population has bought a grab-and-do lunch in the past month, and 28% breakfast. Breakfast foods in particular have been a decisive driver of growth, with a 10% increase of sales in the last 3 years.

In the last ten years alone the grab-and-go market has gone from the fringes to accounting for a full quarter of all turnover in the eating out market. These numbers are certainly appetising. They suggest a small revolution has occurred in how consumers snack and eat the last decade. Yet there is still plenty of space for growth.

Convenience remains king, but now that consumers have become used to food on the move at all hours of the day, there is greater pressure to innovate with delicious products and attractive displays and arrangements. This is especially true in high density and cosmopolitan areas like London.

Low cost pre-packaged salads, sandwiches, and soups were once the mainstay of the grab-and-go market. These products were high on convenience but offered little in the way of taste, health benefits, or innovative appeal. The typical customer now wants more than just the old fare from the grab-and-go space. They want a more ample and special choice of products, and are willing to pay a moderate price premium for it. The latest handful of studies on the habits of customers all point in the same direction: the name of the game is now quality and variety.

The present situation offers specialty coffee shops, grocers, and wellness outlets a good way to boost profits, through increasing their offering of health focused and artisanal grab-and-go products on site. The emphasis should be moving away from the traditional grab-and-go options, which offered little more than convenience, and towards new and innovative concepts.

ShelfNow with its range of more than 1,000 unique and curated products is naturally a good place to start. The data collected from our platform reveals that the grab-and-go products with the greatest demand are health focused snacks and drinks. Yet, there are plenty of other trends that will shape the future of the grab-and-go market:

Millennials Lead The Way – The last few years have seen a surge in the popularity of grab-and-go products among millennials. For customers under 35, grab-and-go products have lost their old association with second-rate food offerings, and are now fully accepted and expected to be found in a wide variety of settings. Millennials consistently identify as being more likely to purchase grab-and-go products compared to the average customer. 50% of average customers report purchasing pre-packaged sandwiches, and 25% report purchasing ready-to-eat salads. For millennials those numbers jump up to 65% and 40% respectively. Perhaps most importantly this preference doesn’t seem to change with age, as older millennials remain as enthusiastic customers as their younger peers.

Healthy Snacks On The Run – It looks like the potato chip has finally met its match. Health conscious consumers now more than ever are looking for convenient ways to satisfy their hunger, with nutritious food, that can easily fit into ever-busier lifestyles. No surprise then that the snack market is booming, with 66% of UK adults admitting to snacking once a day. But snacking has changed in the last few years as customer preference has shifted to healthy alternatives. Protein snacks, low calorie options, and delicious veggies and legumes have seen a meteoric rise in popularity. Chickpeas, beets, quinoa, and kale are the miracle foods that will shape the future of this market.

Alternative Hydration – Millennials are guzzling down sparkling water like there’s no tomorrow, but surging sales suggest that it is becoming a popular drink among all generations. Busy consumers on the move crave low-calorie, low sugar, and no-alcohol drinks with a touch of flair. This trend will gain momentum in 2020, with sugar-free sodas, seltzers, and alternative drinks becoming the choice of the season, especially in spring and summer.

Sustainability – Nothing new about this trend, but it is a fact of life that has become impossible to ignore. Consumers, especially younger generations, don’t just want sustainable choices they demand them. Woe to the producer who can’t keep up. Not only is there an enormous appetite for grab-to-go products made from sustainable and transparently sourced ingredients, but consumers are mindful of sustainable and plastic free packaging too. Doing away with plastic straws was just the start, consumers expect bold actions.

Flexitarian Fashions – Consumers continue to seek alternatives to traditional meat products, as more experiment with plant based and flexitarian diets. The reasons for this change are many: reducing environmental impact, a change in diets, moral conundrums over the ethics of factory farming, or plain popularity. The whys may be varied but the future forecasts all point the same way. Retail sales in the USA of plant-based food are up 11.3% over the past year, compared to a 2% rise in overall food sales. This market is ripe and ready to try new tasty products, as vegans and vegetarians form an ever smaller portion of consumers who regularly choose plant based products.