Food to go is accounting for a growing share of meal and snack occasions, accounting for 43.3% of all eating out market visits – up 0.5pp, according to the MCA Food To Go Tracker for year to end June 2018.

The share of visits for snacking was up 0.6pp to 60.5%, compared with the previous year, while share at meal times was up 0.5pp to 32.1%.

Visit frequency fell more slowly than the total market, down 4.4% to 6.7 visits per month, on average, for UK adults. This compared to a drop in frequency of 5.5% to 15.5 visits per month for the total eating out market.

Lunch saw the smallest decline in visit frequency, down 2.3% to 1.5 visits per month, while dinner saw the largest decline, but from a smaller base, down 9.6% to 0.4 visits.

Snacking remains the most popular reason to purchase food on the go with average visits at 3.7 per month (-4.9%).

A key trend seen in the report was that consumers are becoming more conscious about their spending, not only from a financial point of view but also due to the rise in healthier eating.

In the face of prolonged inflation and squeezed disposable incomes, ‘good value’ has seen significant growth as a reason for choosing an establishment, growing faster than any other Top 10 need.

Snacking, the largest day-part, saw the strongest trend towards good value as a consumer need. However, food to go consumers are showing the strongest tendencies towards economising at lunch.

Average spend increased across all day parts except lunch, but slightly behind the trend seen in the overall eating out market, which saw overall spend increase by 1.4pp to £7.61, compared to the food to go market, which saw a 1.3pp increase to £4.53. Dinner saw the largest increase in average spend, up 3.1pp to £13.75.

Routine food to go missions declined most heavily at breakfast while ‘lazy and enforced’ reasons for eating out declined significantly at lunch, as consumers increasingly prepare food at home.

The report also found that work-led reasons for eating out – up 1pp to 20.2% – have become increasingly important over the past year for food to go as these occasions are driven more by a necessity of circumstance than other reasons for eating out.

Work-led missions are the most common reason for eating out at breakfast and lunch, with both day-parts seeing increases in prominence for this mission over the past year.

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