A new report by Food From Britain (FFB) - Supplying Foodservice Channels - reveals that foodservice is growing faster than retail (3-6% compared with 2-4%) in most European markets mainly because more people are working longer hours and have a higher disposable income.
Meanwhile, the boundaries between retail and foodservice are blurring; many European top 100 foodservice groups are traditional retailers running in-store restaurants, such as Ikea. At the same time, manufacturers with strong brands are developing foodservice products and opening stores.
Some of the key opportunities include value-added meat and poultry, lamb and sausages and bacon for the ex-pat sector (France); meat (Italy); red and white processed meat (The Netherlands); bacon, sausages, gammon steaks and beef for ex-pats (Portugal); and beef, lamb, pork and ethnic food (Sweden).
There's also no one-size-fits-all approach warns the FFB, as the foodservice market is varied and fragmented; there are no real European players (apart from McDonalds) however, some sectors such as contract catering are more consolidated, for example, in France where Elio, Sodexho and Compass control the market. This means there are differences in the way suppliers should approach each market - in France, these large foodservice groups should be targeted directly while in Germany, companies need to offer either an innovative product or an alternative to an existing product at a low price, while being aware of tough recycling and food laws. The US is a highly fragmented market with a complex supply chain, with few opportunities for UK suppliers apart from upmarket hotels and restaurants.
The UK is the third largest foodservice market in Europe - after Germany and France - valued at £35 million. Eating out makes up nearly 30% of all food and drink consumption and is expected to reach 50% by 2025. UK suppliers are seen as innovative and dynamic with a strong added-value offering, however exporters need to be aware that the strong pound makes British products expensive and that other countries can be slower to accept new products and ideas.