The Food to Go sector is diversifying away from London at the same time as reacting to changing consumer needs – with food quality now just as important as speed and convenience, the latest MCA data shows.

The continued expansion of contemporary fast food outlets such as Leon, Itsu and Chop’d over the past few years as well as further nationwide rollouts for more established players such as Subway and Greggs, has driven a diversification away from the capital.

MCA and HIM’s Food To Go Market Report shows that the share of visits in London has fallen from 22.6% in 2015 to 21.1% last year. In the past year alone the share has fallen from 21.6%.

The West Midlands led the regional growth with its share of total food to go visits rising 0.6 percentage points over the past year.

Meanwhile, the report highlights how the sector has become increasingly female-friendly, with the 52.6/47.4 visit split in favour of men in 2015 exactly reversed by 2018.

Higher income earners and 25-49-year-olds, at the expense of 18-24-year-olds have also grown in prominence among food to go consumers, as operators increasingly offer more convenient, high quality products and economic pressures push lower earners to prepare packed lunches more often.

Meanwhile, insights into consumer needs for the sector show that while fast service remains the joint top consideration when choosing an establishment, its influence is decreasing. At the same time the rising importance of food quality / taste has seen it equal speed of service as a consumer need. While the perception of ‘good value’ has increased in importance, the search for ‘cheap’ food has fallen.

MCA consumer insight director, Gareth Nash, said: “These figures show the breadth of opportunity still to be found in the food to go sector. London remains a key market for food to go, accounting for a fifth of all visits. However, evolving consumer trends and rapid expansion of key brands into the regions has led to further diversification.

“Food to go has been at the forefront of reacting to emerging consumer trends and this has allowed it to broaden its appeal across the demographic spread and crucially to attract those high-earning customers.”

The MCA and HIM Food To Go Market Report 2019 provides a comprehensive overview of the state of the sector across the Eating Out and Grocery Retail sectors, its potential for continued success and the evolving needs of shoppers and consumers. Find out more about how you can access the report.