The return of "On-the-Go"

How the convenience channel is bouncing back

The hammer blow dealt to the on-the-go category by Covid still feels like yesterday – when quite simply, nobody was allowed to ‘go’. School children weren’t nipping to the local convenience shop after school, commuters weren’t needing their morning pick-me-up on the way to work and the whole country was home-bound with a lot more time on their hands to cook and prepare food from scratch. This therefore drastically reduced demand for on-the-go products, and in-home formats ruled the roost.

Convenience stages a comeback

Fast-forward to 2022, and, following a tumultuous two years for the category, the picture is very different. Restrictions are all-but gone, consumers are returning to busy and time-constrained lives, paving the way for the convenience channel to make its comeback.

Not only is the channel bouncing back, research shows the channel is enjoying the highest growth frequency out of all grocery channels, ahead of supermarkets (Lumina Intelligence, 2021). This is driven by these stores suiting impulse purchases, consumers’ little and often shopping approach, and the on-the-go occasion. The channel is only likely to continue to strengthen over the coming months and years – as many stores focus on adapting to the ever-changing customer. Where on-the-go is strengthening again, this will involve adaptations and investments such as dedicating more space in store to fridges and chilled goods, alongside their ambient ranges.

Taking all of this into account means that there is a big opportunity for dairy and plant-based drink brands to continue to innovate in the convenience space, with a strong focus on the on-the-go occasion.

This opportunity has not gone unnoticed by brands, with many having already launched RTDs in smaller formats focusing on capturing the needs of the increasingly busy customer.  Below, we look at some of the current and emerging sub-trends in the space.

Health that is convenient

UK consumers are more aware of their physical and mental wellbeing than ever before. Shoppers understand the negative impacts of high sugar, high fat drinks, and are looking for options with greater nutritional benefits. This health-focus has driven the rise in functional RTD products, which are often protein enriched or contain immune boosting ingredients, as shoppers are looking for easy ways to get their daily fix of nutrients with little fuss.

Weetabix has tapped into this trend by launching their on-the-go plus immune support range in September 2021. The breakfast drink is high in fibre and protein and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Available in three flavours and in a 330ml PET bottle, the drink targets those wanting a nutritious pick-me-up whilst on the go.

Other brands sitting alongside Weetabix’s on-the-go range include, UFIT and For Goodness Shakes. Both of which are offering high protein, low fat RTDs in 300-500ml bottles, aiming to give consumers that extra boost whilst on the go. This is particularly important as the world gets back to normal, and people have less time to spend on making nutritious meals.

The grab-and-go pick me up

Over the past year demand for RTD coffee has soared. Over lockdown consumers could no longer get their caffeine fix from their usual coffee shops. With more drinkers consuming their coffee at home this contributed to the growth of RTD coffee, with the main selling point being the ease at which consumers could get their morning or afternoon coffee in a pre-made format. But demand has not stopped since the world has reopened, as the convenience of RTD coffee perfectly transfers to the return of normality.

This space is also seeing continued adaptation to the modern consumer as more and more plant-based alternatives are being launched suiting the consumer shift to plant-based diets.

Jimmy’s has capitalised on this trend by launching a plant-based version of their iced coffee in October 2021. The oat based RTD comes in a 250ml aluminium can and is perfectly positioned for those dairy dodgers wanting a quick pick-me-up whilst out and about.

Alongside Jimmy’s original dairy range, sits Arctic coffee who is a strong player with their dairy range of 330ml coffee RTDs. Other brands in the RTD coffee sphere include high-street brands such as Costa and then Starbucks, who have both dairy and non-dairy products.

So, what does this all mean?

As the world re-opens, consumers will have less time and the demand for convenient pick-me-ups will continue to grow. Brands within this space need to react quickly and ensure that they are supplying consumers with products which suit these needs. Thus, providing a proposition in a smaller format with a ready-to-drink product is vital if brands want to unleash the power of the convenience channel.

Interested to learn more?

Contact us to learn more about packaging options for the convenience channel.