The way we eat is changing. Consumers are cooking less, buying more prepared products — more snacks, smaller meals, and new meal occasions — from delivery aggregators, retailers, traditional quick-service chains, meal-kit companies. For foodservice brands, this presents an opportunity yet also promises exponentially more competition. Going forward, the most successful operators will be those able serve a range of occasions, from light snacks to complete meals, all served fresh and on demand.
Snacking, of course, has long been an important occasion for companies in the International Top 25, — the largest foodservice brands based outside the U.S. and Canada. Eighteen of the brands on the list are in Asia, where trendy, indulgent snacks and beverages are a major driver of demand. New to the International Top 25 this year is Yiddtea, a bubble tea chain with more than 3,000 outlets across China. Bubble tea is a massive category in China and beyond, with popular chains boasting long lines and a powerful presence on social media.
More broadly, some of the fastest-growing, up-and-coming chains in Asia are those specializing in fun, indulgent products that photograph well — crucial for social media — and that can be enjoyed throughout the day. Just behind Yiddtea in China is Heytea, known for its minimalist outlets and cheese tea, or tea topped with a thick dollop of a frothy cheese mixture.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s J. CO Donuts & Coffee has become a major regional player with a strong assortment of high-end doughnuts and beverages.
This focus on beverages, indulgence, and snacking is not limited to Asia. Coca-Cola’s $5.1 billion purchase of UK coffee shop chain Costa Coffee marked a major shift in strategy for the world’s largest soft drinks company, while giving another global packaged food-and-drink player a presence in the International Top 25.
Earlier this year, affiliates of the family-owned Jos. A. Benckiser Group (JAB) — JAB Consumer Fund and JAB Holding Company — purchased a majority stake in Pret a Manger, another UK chain in the Top 25, adding to its stable of “coffee-adjacent” foodservice brands like Panera Bread and Krispy Kreme.
As consumers spend more on snacks and meals outside the home, the need for food and drink manufacturers to play a role in this space will grow. Notably, in addition to more than 3,000 coffee shops, Costa Coffee also operates a network of coffee vending machines, giving Coca-Cola a broad footprint to target a range of coffee-drinking occasions.
For retailers in the International Top 25, targeting an expanding range of consumer dining occasions has defined strategy for many years. Furniture retailer IKEA has steadily expanded its range of foodservice offerings, while experimenting with pop-up concepts in Western Europe. All of the major Japanese convenience store chains have made regular additions to their offerings, with 7-Eleven in particular investing heavily in becoming an all-purpose source for fresh food, prepared meals, and light snacks, 24 hours a day. More broadly, the lines between retailers and foodservice operators continues to blur, as players in both categories work to turn fresh ingredients into meals and snacks around the clock.
Michael Schaefer is global lead, food and beverage, for Euromonitor International.