In Focus
RESEARCH | Staff Reporter, UK

Britain's travel hub foodservice market set for “explosive” growth: study

Foodservice business at airports, motorway services, train stations and petrol forecourts are now worth £2.75 bn.

Britain’s travel hubs, consisting of airports, motorway service stations, train stations and petrol forecourts, is set for “explosive” growth, according to the NPD Group.

The market research company says the value of the travel hub foodservice market increased by over 11% for the year ending (YE) June 2019, from £2.47bn to £2.75bn. Visits were up from 576 million to 619 million, an increase of more than +7%. NPD explains that the travel hub foodservice market is already the same size in visit terms as the delivery sector was at the end of 2015.

Looking at the past three years, airports have seen the fastest growth in foodservice visits (31%), followed by motorway service stations (16%), contrasting it with Britain’s high streets and shopping centres, which recorded a marginal decrease in visits (-0.2%, or equivalent to -8m) during the year.

Families and young adults are driving the growth in travel hub foodservice, especially the 16-24 age group which registered a +20% increase to YE June 2019. Visits by families with kids up to 15 years of age meanwhile were up by +13%.

NPD predicts that the travel hub market could see the same kind of “explosive” growth as the delivery channel, with consumer spending potentially growing by as much as +25% to £3.44 billion by 2022, nearly £690 million more than current figures.

Key trends which may drive this growth include rail passenger journeys, which reached a record high of 1.76 billion in Q1 2019, international departures from UK airports setting a new record of 118 million in 2018 and the British staycation boom. NPD says there are over 11,000 travel hubs in the UK currently, with the number set to grow.

“A dynamic part of Britain’s £57 billion eat-out foodservice market, these travel hubs are seeing attractive growth and we predict more success. This is in stark contrast to the British high street, where the performance in terms of visits is flat,” Guy Fielding, Business Development Director (Foodservice) at The NPD Group, explained.

NPD also noted that consumers change some of their consumption habits when travelling, with demand for traditional coffee or any kind of tea dropping, the likelihood of buying dairy drinks or milk shakes nearly doubling and customers more than three times as likely to buy energy/sport drinks.

The motivation to find something ‘light, balanced and healthy’ triggers at least 50% more visits than normal, the company says, whilst customers are also 30% more likely to try ‘something different/new’ and 20% more likely to satisfy a ‘special taste or craving’. The number of deals and promotions in travel hub outlets is also 64% higher than for the eat-out industry as a whole.

In terms of occasions, snacking accounts for most of what we eat and drink when travelling followed by lunch. Breakfast is a bigger occasion in travel hub locations as well, accounting for around one in five visits, in contrast to one in eight visits seen in the wider foodservice industry.

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