The UK food to go market is worth over £20billion in the UK – and showing no signs of slowing down. Subway and Costa are enjoying growth of 25% and 27% respectively, and independent operators account for £3billion of the marketplace. According to MCA’s Food to Go Market Report 2018, it’s expected to be the most influential food trend of the next 2-3 years and the fastest growing trading format, driven by blurring dayparts and time pressures of workers wanting nutritious food in the out of home environment. 

However, whilst consumers expect to eat more food on the go in the coming years, they also expect continued innovation in the sector, with 40% of those polled by MCA wanting to see more healthier options, more hot food (34%) and more vegetarian and vegan offers (13%). 

Convenience is also a key driver with consumers demanding online pre-ordering for click and collect lunches, self-service checkouts in restaurants and pubs, and deliveries to their desk. 

Fill ‘em up! 

When it comes to sandwich fillings, the traditional favourites continue to top the list. 

Sam Day, PR manager for the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association, comments: “It is interesting in terms of fillings how bacon has moved to become the most popular filling. This could in part be due to the growth in the food to go breakfast market. Chicken however still dominates the market in terms of the single most used ingredient. 

“In terms of carriers, the triangle sandwich wedge reigns supreme although there has been a significant rise in toastie sales which we can attribute to the colder winter months.” 












Get personal 

Asian food is a trend that continues to go from strength to strength and is now worth a staggering £3billlion in the UK, proving itself as a key opportunity for caterers considering their grab and go menus. 

Annette Coggins, head of foodservice, Tilda UK, suggests: “Done well, grab and go food can prove extremely profitable. Rice pots, for example, are easy-to-make, low cost to produce and incredibly adaptable, working across lunch, dinner and snack menus. Hot or cold they are a true all-day option for caterers to profit from.” 

Caterers can make their rice pots stand out with the use of speciality rice and can demand a higher price point in the process. 

Tilda’s Fragrant Jasmine Rice allows caterers to easily create delicious Chinese-inspired sticky rice pots and the Basmati & Wild Rice lends itself perfectly to creating exciting one-pot Indian dishes that are ideal for busy lifestyles. 

Pep up your pizza 

Pizza is the ultimate food-on-the-go snack and lends itself perfectly to a variety of world flavours and taste trends. 

As consumers become more adventurous in their tastes, caterers have the opportunity to get creative and tap into the latest food trends to help increase profits. Richard Cooper, senior brand manager, Dr Oetker Professional, lists three key taste trends that are starting to appear more on pizzas: 

Breakfast Pizza: For a twist on the full English breakfast try adding grated potato, diced pancetta and scrambled egg to your pizza 

Vegan Pizza: Fast becoming a key ingredient in vegan dishes, jackfruit has a pulled pork texture and makes a delicious pizza topping with Smokey BBQ sauce 

African Flavours: Minced Berbere spiced lamb with pomegranate seeds and Tahini paste adds an excellent flavour profile to pizza toppings, especially when drizzled with yoghurt and finished with a garnish of mint 

Favour the Far East 

Operators should be using current trends such as Far Eastern influences in their food to go offerings, advises Lorna Kimberley, head of marketing, Mizkan. 

“With consumers becoming ever more aware of exotic flavours, there is clearly a high demand for something different that operators need to acknowledge. Our survey found that four in five consumers were familiar with at least one niche sauce, including wasabi (54%), teriyaki (53%) and sriracha (19%). Interestingly, this was even the case for sauces that aren’t as widely available, such as kimchi (17%) and sushi-su (14%). 

“Looking ahead to growing trends, we are seeing a rise in the popularity of Japanese flavours, especially in the food to go market.” 

Hand it to students 

TUCO’s University Catering 2018 report reveals 67% of students eat cold sandwiches, rolls or wraps bought out of home for lunch, whilst 38% opt for fast food. 

35% of students eat healthily most of the time while a further 35% do so some of time, so offering plenty of healthy options is key. 

Improving your meat-free options is equally vital with almost three in 10 vegetarian/ vegan students ranking the choice of vegetarian/vegan food on campus as poor/very unsatisfactory. 

Case study 

Central London eaterie PILAU, described as “purveyors of London’s best Indian street food”, is receiving rave reviews for its offering of fresh, authentic, good-quality Indian food in an accessible and contemporary format. 

George Pitkeathley, founder and CEO of PILAU, explains: “Our success has come primarily from providing the nation’s favourite food in a contemporary format with the theatrical element that comes with seeing your lunch prepared for you in front of your eyes.

“We try our best to make our product speak for itself, we want every element of the dish to be the best it possibly can be, taking this approach has been key to our success. We also love what we do and believe that this comes across in the food we serve. 

“We’re constantly learning about our customers and what ticks their boxes. I have spent the past few years serving our food and speaking directly with our customers to try and give them the best experience we possibly can.” 

The menu is simple: 

STEP ONE Wrap/Rice Bowl/Salad Bowl 


STEP THREE Butter Chicken/Lamb & Bone Marrow/Paneer (Halal) 

STEP FOUR Lettuce/PILAU Slaw/Pickled Ginger/Red Onion/Shoestring Bhaji/Fresh Chillies 

SAUCE: Mint & Coriander Yoghurt/ Mango & Apricot Chutney