You can’t move for vegan food launches, whether it’s Greggs with its new Vegan Steak Bake or KFC with its Vegan Burger. And new research from Mintel reveals that over the past two years, the number of Brits who have eaten meat-free foods has shot up from 50% in 2017, to 65% in 2019. Meanwhile, sales of meat-free foods have grown by 40% from £582m in 2014 to an estimated £816m in 2019. And such is the popularity of meat-free food that sales are expected to be in excess of £1.1bn by 2024.

But what does this all mean for the forecourt retailer offering food-to-go, where traditional sausage rolls have been a best seller for decades?

Hannah Morter, marketing manager, customer insight and category management, at Country Choice, puts things into perspective: "Vegan options are more popular than ever before with The Vegan Society estimating that over 600,000 people are now following a vegan-friendly diet. In addition to those opting for a full-time vegan diet, many others are choosing to adapt their dietary choices with 34% of meat-eaters making the decision to reduce their overall consumption of meat in 2018. With this in mind it is very important for us to ensure that we have a well-rounded offering to suit every customer, no matter what their dietary preference."

Country Choice has so far released four vegan products: a 6" Vegan Sausage Roll made with Quorn; a Moroccan-style Bean Bake; a Sweet Potato & Coconut Jamaican-style Patty and a fully-baked twin-pack Spelt & Quinoa Seed Croissant from Delifrance. Morter says all of these have been well received by customers and are selling well in stores.

One forecourt store where the Vegan Sausage Rolls have been flying out is Ravens Budgens Abridge, near Romford in Essex.

Owner Goran Raven says: "Country Choice approached us and asked us to push the vegan rolls saying they would cover any wastage, but to be honest there has been very little wastage. We just don’t flood the units with them. We did some tasting sessions and everyone said how nice they were; some people said they were better than the standard sausage rolls. We have had the vegan sausage rolls for six weeks and we are selling approximately two a day.

catering for everyone

"When you look at the statistics only 1% of the population is vegan but lots of people are consuming vegan products and we do like to cater for everyone," says Goran.

Morter adds: "My best tip on how to cater for vegan/vegetarian consumers, as well as those looking to eat more healthily, is to look at the bigger picture of what is driving the trend. The motivation behind these lifestyle changes is broad and includes topics such as animal welfare, the environment, ecology and the economy in general. So retailers need to consider their proposition very carefully in order to ensure that it provides a well-rounded offer and contains products to suit every customer be they a meat-eater, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or flexitarian."

Country Choice recommends that all vegan products are placed onto a dedicated baking tray, separate to non-vegan products. "The use of parchment paper on your baking trays is also strongly recommended. And when displaying vegan products, they should either be placed in a separate area or on the shelf above meat-based and vegetarian products," says Morter.

Goran has three ovens with one dedicated to vegan products: "We wanted to be able to show customers that we use separate trays and a separate oven so vegan products do not come into contact with non-vegan ones."

He adds that they have to have sausage rolls ready to sell by 7am but don’t start baking the vegan ones until 10am as they are popular at lunchtime. And with regards to pricing, Goran is pricing the vegan sausage rolls at the same price as the meat ones as he believes to do otherwise is ’counter intuitive’.

traditional fare

While the vegan sausage rolls are popular Goran says it’s the traditional stuff such as the steak bakes and standard sausage rolls that fly out. At Ravens they start baking at 5.30am and stop at around 6pm. "It’s not rocket science, we bake little and often and have two dedicated team members who do nothing but bake. "We built the food-to-go trade up slowly and people now know they come to us at any time of day and get something hot. We set a record recently for selling 400 individual Country Choice products in one day with just three items of wastage. Pain au chocolate and croissants fly out until 2-3pm so we bake a dozen at a time. As soon as we are down to six we bake again."

Morter says that although many people are aiming to eat a healthier diet research says 85% of people are trying to do this only 35% of people have actually managed to improve their diet in the last year (MCA, 2019).

"Despite their good intentions the temptation to buy something indulgent is just too appealing, so there is definitely still a market for traditional pastries. Moreover, food-to-go and in-store bakery products are not routine purchases for many consumers and so we see a higher percentage of sales coming from products that we would classify as being indulgent rather than regular grocery items."

Back to vegan products and Jenny Bayliss, sales operations director at Delice de France, says there has never been a better time to review bakery offerings to tap into growing consumer trends. "From Meat-Free Monday to the rise of Veganuary, plant-based diets have taken centre stage as consumers look to reduce or remove animal products from their diets. The growth of those interested in vegan or meat reduction diets looks set to continue, and with it there’s an increased expectation to see more vegan options widely available across all categories."

Delice de France offers a range of products enabling retailers to meet this trend throughout the day, including the Vegan Apricot Croissant and its award-winning Vegan Sausage Roll which serves the food-to-go mission. The product was recognised by the Great Taste awards for its ’wonderful homemade appearance’ and ’lovely herby aroma, with a good hearty bite and plenty of filling’.

Also available are two new vegan pies: ’Fake & Ale’ square pie filled with steak-style strips, baby onions and cooked in a vegan ale sauce; and Saag Mangalore Square Pie a combination of cauliflower, spinach, chickpeas and lentils cooked in a spicy sauce.

Wayne Greensmith, head of category marketing at Adelie Foods, says not having a vegan offering is no longer an option. "Outlets must stock up on quality lighter and vegan options to keep up with shopper demand and expectation. Veganism is now a mainstay eating choice rather than a trend and in fact, vegans and vegetarians are set to make up a quarter of the UK population in the next five years, which is why we continue to innovate and grow our popular Roots range. There’s so much competition on the high street now so our products offer a point of difference and ultimately, ensure repeat purchase from a better food-to-go experience."

The latest lines to join Urban East’s vegan range include the Hello Courgeous sandwich and the Wahey Tabbouleh salad. There is also the Hoisin Mushroom salad which has roasted mushrooms mixed in a hoisin sauce with spicy mixed grains, spinach and a sriracha dressing pot.

And if a new product’s not vegan, then it’s vegetarian. Kepak, known for its burgers, has recently launched its first-ever vegetarian burger to meet the growing interest in meat-free products. The Rustlers Moroccan Vegetarian Burger is made with chickpea, grated carrot and coriander and served with mango chutney and a yoghurt and mint sauce, and has been developed to drive penetration among younger shoppers. Adrian Lawlor, marketing and business development director at Kepak says: "With a third of consumers actively seeking to introduce plant-based options into their diets, we feel that a brand as synonymous with taste and convenience, Rustlers can really bring something new to the market, with convenience and enjoyment considered key requirements by flexitarians.

"The new burger’s flavour differentiation satisfies the increasing number of shoppers who are experimenting more with tastes, flavours and cuisines, and the 70 million snacking occasions based on enjoying the taste of a product. The core target audience for this new launch is 18-24s, who are more likely than the overall population to follow flexitarian diets."

Give pizza-to-go a go

Chicago Town, the UK’s number one frozen pizza brand, is keen to help forecourt retailers get a big slice of the food-to-go market with its hot and fresh takeaway pizza concept with a great new offer.
Retailers who buy the Chicago Town hot ’Pizza to Go’ cabinet for just £550+VAT will be reimbursed in free stock. (The offer is based on free stock of Chicago Town Takeaway to the value of £560 covering the initial outlay of the Pizza Cabinet at £550+Vat. Free stock is assumed on an rrp of £7. Based on 10 cases = £560 (eight pizzas per case). Pay back is achieved in just three weeks, based on an average ROS of 30 pizzas a week). In addition retailers get free installation, free training and free pos, making this an affordable, quick and simple hot food-to-go solution for retailers who want to make more dough.
The Chicago Town ’Pizza to Go’ cabinet measures 565mm wide x 565mm deep x 780mm high.
Retailers freshly prepare 12-inch stuffed crust Chicago Town ’Pizza to Go’ in their oven before selling straight from a hot display cabinet sited in- store. The pizzas are made with fresh rising dough, that’s never pre-cooked, so they deliver a real takeaway taste.
Available in the two most popular Chicago Town Pizza flavours Loaded Cheese and Loaded Pepperoni they can be sold in quarter slices, half pizzas or even as a whole pizza giving retailers the flexibility to create exciting meal deals and attractive price points.
Pizzas are available in case sizes of eight. Rrp is £7 per pizza and they deliver a 50% margin.

Henderson’s café module epos

Henderson Technology has launched a range of food-to-go integrations with its EDGEPoS Café module, which bolts onto the EDGEPoS retail software solution.  EDGEPoS Café means that retailers can now benefit from a solution that has been adapted for café and takeaway environments. The system allows for sit-in and takeaway service, with separation for kitchen printing.
Kristine Moore, Henderson Technology retail technology channel manager, explains: "This innovative new module is ideal for retail stores that have a hot food and deli sit-in/takeaway provision on site. EDGEPoS Café allows the retailer to set up a Café tax, which is applied to an article if the customer is sitting in, rather than taking it away from the store. Employees can add additional lines of information for each order; salt/vinegar on chips, sit in/takeaway, facilitating more accurate transaction detail and reporting.
"If a retailer is looking to integrate scales to EDGEPoS, the receipt resolution function on integrated Mettler Toledo scales allows multiple items to be selected within one transaction. Receipt resolution ensures all food items are accounted for, reducing the risk of fraudulent activity."
In addition, Henderson Technology has an integration with Appetite, a Bludot Technologies app that allows the customer to pre-order and pre-pay for food-to-go, including custom-built sandwiches and salads; and either collect in-store or use a retailer’s workplace delivery service. 
It is currently being piloted in Spar Titanic Quarter, Belfast.

Growth spurt for Jake & Nayn’s

On-the-go street food brand, Jake & Nayns’, has announced 57% growth over the last financial year following a wave of retail wins across the industry including increased listings in Sainsbury’s as well as distribution through Booker, Co-op, Nisa and Spar. Its products are also available through Roadchef, Welcome Break and WHSmith Travel stores.
New to Jake & Nayns’ Naanster range is a vegan Chickpea Curry variety, catering for both vegans and flexitarians.
This launch will be followed by the addition of a special-edition, mega-hot Naga Chilli Naanster. Rrp for the Naansters is £2.
There are also four burritos, which launched last year: BBQ Chilli Jackfruit; Mexican Chicken; Jerk Chicken; and Chipotle BBQ Pork. Each can be eaten cold from the pack or hot after being warmed in a microwave for just 90 seconds. Rrp is £2.50.
Managing director of Jake & Nayn’s, Jake Karia, says: "The last year has been phenomenal we’ve seen significant growth across the business, launched a new Burritos range and won five significant industry awards but we’re not stopping there.
"The whole team has a passion and enthusiasm for food, which has driven us to continually innovate and develop new products. We are on a mission to shake up the category and debunk the myth that food on the go is wholly bad for you, proving that there are satisfying, quick meals out there that aren’t full of fat, sugar and salt.
"We have massive growth plans for 2020, including significant NPD launches, some limited-edition flavours and more expansion for the business."