You can't get much more informal than grab'n'go dining. Kathy Bowry looks at hot and cold options to serve up for customers in a hurry
Research from Horizons' Eating Out-Look survey, published in April in association with JRA Research, revealed that people are now snacking more. Emma Read, Horizons' director of marketing and business development, explains: "Foodservice operators have done a great job at changing their offer and adapting to the way consumers eat out today, providing more foods that satisfy snacking opportunities throughout the day. This, typically, means several small meals duringthe day, whether it be coffee and porridge bought to eat at our desks in the morning, a muffin with a coffee mid-morning or a light snack in the afternoon."
According to Mintel's 2014 report, Consumer Snacking UK, snacking is a deeply ingrained habit for UK adults, with 98% snacking at home, work or place of study, and 70% snacking on the go. Two-thirds of adults who snack do so at least once a day, with almost three in 10 snacking twice a day or more.
Stephen Clifford, Country Choice's head of marketing, says: "Hot food is key for any caterer who is serious about food to go and this normally starts with breakfast. A breakfast food-to-go offer will kickstart the day with many blue and white-collar workers either in or on their way to work. Breakfast baps - bacon, sausage, omelette, hash browns and combinations thereof - are a huge seller, as are bacon and cheese turnovers and sausage rolls. And don't forget a vegetarian offer such as a cheese and onion roll.
"However, the market for these products is predominantly male, so it is also advisable to also offer traditional morning goods such as danishes, croissants and pains aux raisins."
First things first
If it's a traditional French croissant to go with that important breakfast coffee, Délifrance has a new range of ambient or thaw-and-serve all-butter croissants. The company also supplies a full range of speciality French and continental breads 'made over there, served over here'.
Dawn Foods marketing manager Jacqui Passmore believes the smell of sweet treats baking on-site teases customers into buying. "Dawn's convenient Scoop & Bake range is the ideal choice for creating treat-size versions of American-style muffins and cakes without skilling up or baking from scratch. The range of frozen batters and doughs is available in a variety of core and seasonal flavours, including a versatile vanilla cookie dough, as well as an orange and cranberry, mincemeatand skinny vanilla."
Available in 2kg stackable freezer tubs, the frozen batters and doughs just need to be thawed overnight at room temperature, or in the chiller for 24 hours, ready to scoop and bake in the morning.
Meanwhile, Dave Edwards, head of out-of-home sales for Mission Foodservice, says: "Mission Foods produces 75 million wraps daily. We understand that it is important for caterers to give consumers a variety of choices throughout the day, whether it's breakfast, dessert or mid-afternoon snacking. Our tortilla wraps are extremely versatile and can be filled with a variety of ingredients, from honeyed figs and gorgonzola to spicy orange, chocolate and cranberry.
"Wraps can also be used for a variety of Mexican dishes, including burritos andfajitas. More recently, Mexican versions of the UK's favourite dish, the beefburger, known as 'burgerdillas' have started appearing inspecialist and non-specialist Mexican outlets, which demonstrates how versatile the tortilla wrap can be."
He points to recent research by Technomic in which half of consumers indicated that healthiness is very important to them when choosing a snack,and wraps are often seen as a lighteralternative. Some 48% of respondents would be more likely to buy and pay slightly more for items described as 'fresh'. Freshness and nutritional values often go hand-in-hand, and wraps can really appeal to consumers who are conscious of their fitness and well-being.
However, Chris Pauling, managing director and founder of Proper Cornish Group, believes that you can't do better than a bit of pie crust for ultimate grab'n'go convenience and satisfaction. He says: "The demand for premium products that fulfil the treat proposition is important, and those perceived to be fun and sociable will remain popular. Like our Proper Cornish chorizo sausage roll. Consumers are becoming diverse in their tastes and with trends from abroad, such as tapas, influencing flavour preferences here in the UK, chorizo is fast becoming the nation's favourite sausage."
Or customers could go for a variation on the American Philly cheesesteak sandwich in the form of a Philly cheesesteak slice filled with succulent pieces of beef and red Leicester with a creamy mustard sauce.
"When has American-inspired fast food been so on-trend and beautifully gourmet?" asks Rollover's sales and marketing director, Tony Owen, who advocates winning customers with eye-appeal. Rollover's 'posher than posh' Hot Dogs Gourmet range has been carefully designed with appearance in mind.
"Putting three or more hot dog recipe combinations on display is ideal, as it creates a very eye-catching presentation of a classic menu item," Owen says. "Customers can then choose their favourite ingredient combination, making the experience feel more engaging than a one-fits-all approach - ideal if you want to charge a premium. The key is making it look tasty, attractive and generous for the on-the-go market, as customers need to make a quick decision to buy and eat on impulse."
"Too much choice can sometimes be a problem when you're in a rush," Owen adds, "so perhaps allow simple customisation, such as a choice of favourite sauces to add at the end or alternative bread options such as the brioche or pretzel breads from Rollover."
Robert Burns, marketing controller at hot dog specialist Westlers, believes products should be high quality, good value for money and designed to allow kitchens to prepare and cook them quickly. "Toppings such as horseradish mayonnaise, jalapeÁ±os, sauerkraut and guacamole are just a few that can help add value and be easily combined. Adding new toppings can be a great way of reinventing a menu and engaging with diners."
On the sweet front, muffins are huge earners, with the UK retail market valued at £113.6m. "They are liked by all age groups and offer an opportunity to increase the value of the individual sale," says Lisa Boswell, trade marketing manager at CSM Bakery Solutions. "Whether it's to complete a lunch or a morning coffee, muffins are a mainstay of the grab-and-go sector.
"CSM has launched four new premium topped-and-filled muffins - triple caramel, chocolate nougat, raspberry and yogurt, and banana and toffee. We have tapped into the most popular flavours that are here to stay, as well as delivering a high-quality eat. The products are eye-catching. They are topped and filled, so give a double treat, and the thaw-and-serve format ensures less wastage and higher profit potential."
Kids' stuff Mandy Smith, executive catering manager at Westlands Academy in Sittingbourne, Kent, is impressed with Tuk Tuk and Pasta Pronto, a grab'n'go concept from Country Choice.
"Kids are definitely into spicy food more than ever before and so the sauces that come with Country Choice's Grab & Go Tuk Tuk/Pasta Pronto concept are absolutely perfect for them. So whether we are serving pasta, rice or noodles with barbecue chicken or curry sauce, they love it.
"We had a pasta concept here before, but what we have now offers so much more. Aside from the products themselves, which are great, the branding, POS material and everything else that comes with the concept help to make it really visible to the children.
"The most important aspect from my point of view is the fact that because it is so easy to switch from Tuk Tuk one day to Pasta Pronto the next, we can ring the changes on a regular basis to keep the children interested. The unit itself is provided 'free on loan' so the school doesn't even have to dip into its capital equipment budget to fund it.
"The concept is still very new to us, but sales have been promising - averaging about 100 per day."
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