French Fries and the Growth of Food Delivery
Much of the admittedly limited growth which has taken place within the global foodservice industry during the last year can largely be attributed to the continued expansion of the home food delivery sector in many parts of the world.
by Jonathan Thomas
This has been driven by the growing footprint of operators such as Uber Eats and Just Eat, most of which continue to expand. With the closure of many foodservice outlets as part of lockdown measures, consumers have had to turn to other means to experience what might be termed ‘restaurant quality’ dining.
It should be noted that this sector was growing even before the arrival of Covid-19. The global food delivery market was valued at USD110bn in 2020, a figure many industry sources expect to increase to more than USD150bn by the middle of the present decade. Asia-Pacific represents the world’s largest regional market for food delivery, ahead of North America – much of this is due to the huge increase in demand for online food ordering amongst China’s predominantly younger urban consumers, a trend which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Many of the trends which have been evident in the foodservice industry of late are also driving growth within the food delivery market, such as rising demand for more dishes suitable for vegans. The UK serves as an example of how the Covid-19 pandemic created numerous opportunities for the food delivery market. During the lockdown which took place during the second quarter of 2020, approximately 9 million foodservice visits switched from venues such as restaurants and pubs to home delivery, according to data in a report compiled by potato products manufacturer Aviko UK.
According to data from a survey carried out in June 2020 by Toluna, 98% of respondents claimed to have ordered food via delivery or takeaway channels during the lockdown period. Of those respondents that had ordered food for delivery online, a leading 57% did so for reasons of speed and convenience. Its suitability as a treat or reward is also apparent from the results of the Toluna survey – 53% of respondents claimed to order food for delivery online as a treat during the weekend, while 28% did do during the week. Other reasons cited for ordering food for delivery online included to experiment with new cuisines, as well as to support local businesses. Although the speed of delivery was mentioned as a factor in choosing which dishes to order, consumers also seek good portion sizes and dishes which could be considered indulgent.
Chips and French fries appear relatively well positioned to benefit from the predicted further growth of the food delivery market, given that most consumers appear to be opting for familiar meals and dishes – examples include burgers, pizza and fried chicken. Chips and French fries represent one of the most popular types of meal accompaniment in many parts of the world, as well as finding more of a niche in the hot snacking market. According to Dataessential, 62% of UK consumers claim to be actively seeking out better quality chips and French fries ordered via takeaway/home delivery channels. Given the further anticipated growth within the sector, it is perhaps significant to note that more manufacturers are launching new products suitable for the needs of the food delivery sector, such as French fries which remain hot and crunchy for extended periods. According to the Toluna study mentioned earlier, 87% of respondents expressed an interest in hot and crunchy French fries when ordering food or meals for delivery, which suggests that demand for chips via home delivery channels remains sizeable. Given the increased importance of the food delivery channels, operators have come under pressure to make ordering and payments easier for consumers, via the use of technological innovations such as apps. During March 2020, Aviko UK joined forces with the Irish-based company Flipdish to help foodservice operators such as restaurants, pubs and cafes to set up online ordering systems.
Packaging also appears to represent a significant consideration when supplying chips or French fries during food delivery, given the greater emphasis now being placed upon quality. Some form of ventilated packaging (e.g., a carton containing holes) is considered by many industry sources to be desirable, to ensure the food inside can breathe and that the contents do not go soggy or lose their crunch. This, however, must be balanced against the consideration not to let in too much ventilation, which may cause the contents to cool too rapidly. Other packaging considerations include sustainability (for example, use of environmentally unfriendly packaging may put the more ethically minded consumers off from repeat purchases), as well as use of graphics. McDonalds has recently unveiled the first packaging revamp for its French fries since 2016, with the redesign having thus far been rolled out in markets such as Australia and New Zealand. The new packaging features minimalist-style graphics, with images of fries imprinted onto the back of the carton.
You can read the entire article in the upcoming March-April print issue of Potato Processing International.