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Grab-and-Go Food Is Part of the Millennial Generation

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It appears that grab-and-go food has become very popular with the on-the-go millennial generation. Grab-and-go food (GNG) refers to pre-packaged, ready-to-eat food items often sold at a self-service refrigerator or something similar.

At one time, a good thirty years ago, these items were often viewed as a “second class” food offering found at a gas station or quick stop store, but that has all changed. Grab-and-go food items today are well accepted, found in all kinds of settings from upscale hotel lobbies to convenience stores to schools and universities. They are often viewed as high quality food, and have really found their footing with the younger generation, specifically millennials.

A 2014 study by Consumer Trends Report uncovered the following:

  • Whereas 19 percent of average consumers select grab-and-go food items, nearly 30 percent of millennials purchase these items.
  • About 50 percent of consumers report they purchase prepackaged sandwiches, but this jumps to 65 percent for millennials.
  • As to salads, just over 25 percent of consumers purchase ready-to-eat salads but nearly 40 percent of millennials report they regularly purchase them.

And by most measures, this is just the beginning of a growing trend. One of the reasons GNG is getting so popular, other than speed, is that it helps reduce food waste. For instance, schools and universities report tossing out tons of quality, edible food items every year simply because they prepared too much of certain food items or these items did not sell as well as expected.

History of Grab-and-Go Food

Some people may still remember “automats,” which once were found all over New York City and other parts of the country. The first automats were introduced in Philadelphia in 1902. Individual servings were displayed inside glass compartments and customers would purchase the desired food by inserting nickels into slots that unlatched the door so they could remove the dish. While the food was not usually pre-packed, this was, effectively, an early form of self-service meals.

Grab-and-go food items have become a valuable source of additional revenue for
food service operators, found in all kinds of settings from upscale hotel lobbies
to convenience stores to schools and universities.

Consumers liked automats because the food was always fresh. Most automats had a strict “fresh-food” policy, meaning no food would be left overnight and served the next day, which also helped these outlets reduce costs and food waste. They could time how fast or slow a food item was selling and make sure there was only enough to finish the day.

Another reason for their popularity was that consumers liked being able to see the food items. Automat managers always made sure these display compartments were kept clean and sanitary, which consumers also appreciated.

By the early 1990s, all the automats in the U.S. had closed. But it appears their closing left a vacuum because, relatively quickly, what was termed “food-on-the-go” self-service food outlets began to emerge. Food-on-the-go evolved into the grab-and-go food industry we know today.

Making Grab-and-Go Food Profitable for Vendors

While we know it is a growing trend, there are certain key points vendors offering grab-and-go food service must understand and that is the importance of the label found on these products. Consumers of these GNG items are label readers, no doubt about it. They want to read the ingredients, nutritional information, and the “use by” or “sell by” dates, which are being replaced by the new “best if used by” term.

For vendors, this means they must have an easy-to-use food labeling terminal system. This allows them to place customized labels on GNG food items, then quickly make changes when necessary. And because some systems have Wi-Fi and Ethernet capabilities, labeling changes made at one location can be completed at all locations of the same chain of stores.

Grab-and-Go Food Trends

We have already mentioned that the grab-and-go food industry is on the upswing. And some food service professionals actually believe it is an under-valued and under-appreciated industry. They point to the fact that everyone is busier today than ever; that the typical family gathering at the dinner or breakfast table seems to be something of the past. They also recognize that consumers tend to be quite happy with most grab-and-go food items, that the market has a bright future, and that it has a long way to go…and grow.

For more information on grab-and-go food items and food labeling systems, contact a DayMark representative.

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