“On the go” consumption patterns are having a mammoth impact on the food industry

“On the go” consumption patterns are having a mammoth impact on the food industry

It has been on the cards for years, but in the past few weeks it has really been hammered home: "on the go" consumption is having a significant impact on the food industry. It is shaping what, how, when and where we eat. While traditional eating patterns are being challenged, the shift presents a growth opportunity for food manufacturers.

In a briefing to discuss the opportunity afforded to dairy companies by flavoured milk products today (7 July), Tetra Pak CEO Dennis Jonsson again highlighted the significance of "on the go" eating trends.

"On the go consumption has risen steadily in recent years," Jonsson observed. According to Tetra Pak, the percentage of people eating on the go has increased from 21% in 2009 to 31% in 2012. People want to consume their snacks and meals while they are commuting, on the train or in the car, Jonsson suggested.

This, he argued, presents dairies with a significant opportunity to add value to white milk through innovation in the flavoured milk sector. In particular, Jonsson identified "breakfast replacements" and "indulgence" as key opportunities for dairy manufacturers.

Demand for on the go options is already shaping the development of the flavoured milk sector - which has seen growth in the category weighted to smaller portion packs and ambient flavoured milk products. These, Jonsson claimed, offered the "convenience and flexibility" to meet the needs of consumers seeking on the go food solutions.

According to the food packer, on the go options are accounting for a larger proportion of sales in a growing category. Tetra Pak figures revealed that RTD flavoured milk is expected to account for a growing proportion of flavoured milk consumption. Currently RTD varieties account for 39% of global flavoured milk sales and the packaging firm suggested that this figure is set to increase to 49% of sales by 2015.

Earlier this week, in our four-part management briefing just-food highlighted the significant impact that on the go consumption is having on the breakfast category in particular.

People are increasingly leaving behind traditional notions of sitting down, spoon in hand, to a bowl of cereal in the morning. As the conventional family structure in western countries evolves (impacted by increasing numbers of families where both parents work as well as higher proportion of single parent households), so too are our eating habits.

"We are witnessing growth in adjacent categories such as morning goods, cereal bars, breakfast biscuits and instant porridge as time pressured consumers seek more convenient breakfast solutions," IRI senior insights manager Leon Palmer observed.

The industry has responded by upping marketing and promotional levels. Significantly, however, beyond short-term measures to stem the flow of declining sales, food makers have also raised their efforts around innovation. Indeed, just days after our briefing went live, news from the US revealed that Kellogg is expanding its portfolio to include various new breakfast bar and drink options.

As food manufacturers look to embrace the opportunities around on the go dining at breakfast, there will be those already mulling the next opportunity that on these trends could offer.

The extension of on the go eating habits to the lunchtime meal occasion is not a great leap of imagination. Already, people report more frequently skipping lunch or eating at their desks. For many, lunch is no longer a sit down meal, but something to be slotted in around the daily grind.

Consumers are increasingly struggling to strike a balance between their home lives and external demands. As long as this tension remains, people will continue to look for products that can be consumed on the go. Drinkable meals - along with other on the go alternatives - may once have sounded futuristic, but this seems to be a trend that is here to stay.