Attendees at Technomic’s recent Canadian Foodservice Planning Program learned about a number of important topics in the Canadian foodservice landscape, among them the rising popularity of grab-and-go foods. Today, 31% of Canadian consumers say they’re buying more restaurant-type food and beverages from retailers.
The most popular response, provided by 45% of consumers, was less time to make meals, but other top answers pointed to an increase in quality and options available in this sector as reasons more people are grabbing a meal or a snack from retailers. In general, fewer Canadians are cooking up meals at home; in Technomic’s Canadian Consumer Brand Metrics Q3 Consumer Update, 63% of consumers reported ordering food from a restaurant once a week or more frequently. Grab-and-go foods offer consumers another option for their snack or meal at the quality and price point they’re looking for.
Most consumers of grab-and-go foods are purchasing them from supermarkets. Loblaw Companies President and Executive Chair Galen Weston recently told the Canadian Press that the supermarket is seeing growth in demand for fresh, prepared foods that give busy shoppers the opportunity to purchase ready-to-eat meals. Other retailers are jumping in to take advantage of this growing trend. After Loblaw, Canada’s largest supermarket chain, purchased Shoppers Drug Mart, the drugstore began piloting the sale of prepared meals and produce in a handful of Toronto stores. Convenience stores are also seeing growth in foodservice purchases—a trend that’s driven by younger patrons, according to Technomic research.
For all retailers offering grab-and-go fare, it’s vital to have consumer preferences in mind to continue to capture this growing market. Some areas of importance, as cited by consumers in the 2014 Canadian Convenience Store Foodservice Consumer Trend Report, include fresh and healthy options, the importance of value, and ethnic flavours and offerings to drive purchases.
Canadian consumers are looking for healthier options in all areas of foodservice, including venues offering grab-and-go options. For some retailers, escaping the stigma of a lack of freshness could be a challenge to capturing these occasions. A store known for quality foods that expands into the grab-and-go market will have an advantage in the segment over newcomers, as 43% of consumers said they would trust grab-and-go providers more if these providers used well-known brands. Canadian grocer Sobeys has expanded into the convenience store market with its Needs and IGA Express banners.
Another area of importance is value. Giving consumers a deal on a combo meal is one way retailers can add value, something some convenience stores already do. Ethnic offerings are also increasingly important to consumers, even in the grab-and-go segment. One-quarter of consumers would be interested in purchasing an Asian dish from a convenience store, according to the Technomic report. And consumers cite a desire for more ethnic flavours, particularly Mexican.
As Canadian families and consumers continue to be crunched for time, they will turn to convenient foodservice options. Catering to their desire for value, freshness and flavour will help the grab-and-go segment continue to be viable option for these on-the-go consumers.