Olaf Hohmann, member of the management of the EHI Retail Institute, presented the results of an EHI study on retail catering at this year's European Convenience Forum, for which companies from this sector were also surveyed. Among other things, he pointed out the trends and potential in the convenience sector for the out-of-home market. According to the preliminary results of the study, the proportion of convenience products in food production is 70.7 percent. 74 percent of those surveyed stated that they already had low-convenience goods on their shelves.
Out-of-the-home market down 30 percent
Spending in the out-of-home market increased by more than 22 billion euros in the period from 2009 to 2019. This can be explained, among other things, by the increase in smaller households. In the area of mobility, there is also a growing trend towards on-the-go consumption. Rigid meal structures - breakfast, lunch and dinner - were steadily eliminated. However, during the 2020/2021 pandemic period, out-of-home consumption fell by 30 percent.
In 2022, inflation, raw material and energy price increases, staff shortages and the war in Ukraine negatively affected the out-of-home market. The sales gap was in turn made up by in-home consumption and thus by sales in food retail: net sales rose from 2019 to 2020 to almost 14 billion euros. "The winners in the 2020/2021 period within the industry were clearly the supermarkets, i.e. stores with an area of 400 to 2,500 square meters. The discounters, on the other hand, had to accept losses," says Hohmann. In the summer months of 2021, when the pandemic was not particularly noticeable, there was a slight increase in sales for the out-of-home market.
Pros and cons of convenience foods
Target markets for convenience products are primarily food retail and gastronomy. The high convenience segment in particular is primarily aimed at (retail) gastronomy. "These are products that are not made by machine or industrially, but are processed, portioned and vacuumed by hand. Restaurateurs can process the goods in portions. They are of a very high quality because, among other things, there are no preservatives wholesalers in particular are constantly taking on this area," says Hohmann.
The advantages for convenience products would be that less labor and preparation time would be required and stocking would be less expensive. For gastronomy there is also the advantage that usually no specialist staff is required. At the same time, these goods are also more expensive and sometimes, at least in the case of standard convenience products, the use of preservatives cannot be avoided completely.
Trends and potential
"Plant-based, vegan and vegetarian continue to be the very clear trends. In addition, more and more meat substitute products are finding their way onto the shelves of food retailers. Regionality and seasonality are also very popular with consumers, while fresh quality is also given more and more visual space in food retail, which frees up more space for the fresh food area," Hohmann reports.
There is also more emphasis on a "real" healthy diet, which means that juices, which contain a lot of vitamin C but at the same time contain up to 60g of sugar per glass, are no longer as popular as they used to be. "On the other hand, 'comfort food', such as a good-smelling waffle or currywurst with fries and mayonnaise, will also continue to be a trend. Sustainability and animal welfare will be important topics in food retail in the future."
"High morals wither at the cash register"
However, a survey of retailers showed that although consumers were interested in these topics and said they were positive about them, they stated this more out of social desirability and less from intrinsic motivation: "High morals wither at the cash register," a retailer told us . Because often cheaper products are used." Furthermore, the issue of best-before dates continues to play a major role, while Hohmann emphasizes that the speed at which retailers react is crucial. Apart from that, more use is being made of reusable packaging in the catering industry as an alternative to the previously dominant one-way packaging, especially for take-away products.
Chances and possibilities
Freshness is more popular than ever, which is why appropriate placement in the stores and above all on the shelves is necessary, says Hohmann, pointing out that comparable concepts can already be seen at petrol stations. Autonomous stores are also increasing, which should be of particular interest for the convenience sector. According to Hohmann, it is important to consciously strive for differentiating factors in order to be able to clearly stand out from the rest. "You don't have to follow every trend. But the concept of 'food for the soul' is very important," says Hohmann.
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