UK foodservice to grow by £16 billion by 2030, with changes to what, when and how we eat

UK foodservice to grow by £16 billion by 2030, with changes to what, when and how we eat

Gill McShane

Simon Stenning

The UK foodservice market is predicted to expand in value terms to £160 billion (bn) by 2030, hitting the £100bn mark by 2026 and growing by £16bn overall during the next 10-11 years. That was the stand-out statistic put forward by expert foodservice market analyst Simon Stenning, Founder and Strategic Advisor of, who gave a bold and exciting prediction for the future of the market at The Foodservice Forum 2019 during the first day of The London Produce Show and Conference. 

A significant driver of this expansion, Stenning said, would come naturally from a growing and ageing UK population, which overall is set to increase to 73 million (m) people by 2041, according to ONS projections. That 10% increase will mean an additional 7.4m people living in the UK, up from 66m currently. 

Tourism is another factor that will have a significant impact on the UK foodservice market, according to Stenning. Using figures and projections from Visit Britain, he estimated that the UK could see 66 million tourist visits per year by 2030 – almost as many people as the population. This, he pointed out, presents a tremendous opportunity to tailor foodservice offerings to suit the demands and needs of those tourists by translating menus and offering specific, familiar products.

What the UK will eat

Summarising his predictions, Stenning, who recently authored ‘The Future of Foodservice 2025-2030’ report, said in the future UK consumers will be eating:

  • less meat;
  • meat alternatives;
  • personalised meals;
  • alternative proteins, like tempeh, and other versions of tofu;
  • more sustainable meats, like chicken;
  • more different vegetables and fruits;
  • alternative grains and more gluten-free products;
  • emergent cuisines from around the world; and
  • a lot more authenticity in global cuisines.

While the growing rise of vegetarianism, flexitarianism and vegan continue to capture numerous press headlines, Stenning reminded the audience that these increases are starting from “tiny bases”. “Do not forget that the number of vegans in the UK amounts to less than 2%; it’s just over 1%,” he cautioned.

“It is growing significantly but even if you apply significant growth projections to those numbers you might get 5% or you could possibly have 10% of the population [turning vegan] by 2030.” 

Nonetheless, Stenning definitely expects to see more meat alternatives on menus in the future since this fits in with public recognition of the need to lead more sustainable lifestyles, and the fact that this awareness is becoming mainstream across the UK. 

Although he believes the recently proposed EAT-Lancet planetary diet goes one step too far, he expects there will be UK consumers who will move towards this type of diet “quite readily”. Meanwhile, he suggests meat alternatives will be driven by either fresh produce, or plant-based proteins like those being used to create products like the Impossible Burger

He also tipped the emergence on plates of different produce types, such as the Jicama root vegetable from Mexico, Robin’s Koginut squash and Beauregard snow peas. 

The use of vegetables in desserts is also on the rise, and will continue to do so, thanks to chefs like Tommy Banks. “We’ve had carrot cake forever but we’ve not seen this in fine dining,” Stenning pointed out. “Chefs are now starting to experiment. I think it will become a significant growth area.” 

In the future, the UK foodservice market can expect to serve even more emerging cuisines from around the world, such as Turkish, Colombian, Sri Lankan, regional Chinese, Indonesian and Caribbean. In particular, Stenning forecasts that Malay (a mix of Chinese and indian cuisines) will grow significantly, as well as Filipino, which is starting to spread already. 

The UK will also experience the development of more complex Middle Eastern cuisines entering the market through operators such as Coal Office in King’s Cross, which is introducing to UK consumers dishes like Sivkia, Shikshukit and Black Masabbaha.

“At the moment, we haven’t got a clue what these [dishes] are but rest assured we’ll find out because they are vibrant and exciting. We’ll see a lot more.”

When it comes to cuisines, Stenning said UK diners will also want more authentic dishes and flavours. “We don’t want a poorer Tex Mex version [of Mexican food], we want authenticity,” said Stenning, exemplifying the El Luchador concept that was recently launched by the Hana Group. 

On that front, Stenning anticipates the entry into London of more global eating-out brands from around the world, such as Turkey, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, India and Japan, to meet the needs of expats, tourists and locals wanting to try and experience some of flavours from these exciting places.

When the UK will eat

Over the next decade, Stenning also predicts changes to when we eat, with many more snacking occasions and opportunities to grab food on-the-go in order to accommodate with busy lifestyles. 

“Studies and data show that 28% of consumers say they only eat three meals a day, while everyone else is saying they eat three meals and snacks too,” he noted.

In particular, Stenning highlighted the grazing concept (eating little and often); as well as the second breakfast, which he said is a big trend in the UK; and also brunch, which is becoming a much bigger occasion; plus the tendency to have a protein boost in the afternoon, and a snack in the evening.

“A good [operator] example of the blurring of meal times is by CHLOE, a vegan concept from the US, with an all-day menu that features brunch, salads, burgers, a little bit of food to go and some main course dishes. It will suit anyone’s needs at any time of the day.” 

How the UK will eat 

When it comes to how UK consumers will eat in the next 10 years, Stenning anticipates that delivered meals will account for a much more important share of the stomach, together with greater convenience options thanks to the complete blurring of lines between retail and foodservice, which will continue.

“I believe the total number of meals eaten [per month] will increase from 94.5 up to 110 meals, with a lot of growth from snacks eaten out of home,” Stenning advised. “We’ll see a slight decrease in the number of grocery meals, but the number of meals eaten out of home will increase from 9.5 up to 12 meals, and delivered meals will increase as well.” 

Speaking specifically about delivered meals, Stenning reminded attendees to consider the vast changes and growth achieved in only the last 12 years since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, with the launch of apps such as Just Eat, Uber Eats and Deliveroo.

“Imagine what we’ll have in 10 years from now,” he suggested, “Already, the picture is changing. Amazon has invested in Deliveroo, and eventually it will become an acquisition. But whether that model will continue, we don’t know.”

As for the blurring of lines between retail and foodservice, the UK market will see this trend continue going forward, according to Stenning, to satisfy the need to shop little and often. 

Current examples include: Yo Sushi in Tesco, Wasabi in M&S, and the Hana Group opening Sushi Gourmet and other concepts at Sainsbury’s. In addition to convenience food stores eat 17 and Sourced Market, which both feature dining options; street food vendors in the former, and a café in the latter. 

Stenning also foresees more pubs, and pubs with restaurant, as well as new housing developments that feature a lot more facilities, such as delivery kitchens – a dark kitchen in the base of the building that will serve a restaurant and a bar to give consumers a broad mix of food solutions that will be delivered to the home or eaten in a communal setting. 

Read more about Simon Stenning and his approach to market analysis in our exclusive interview here.



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