Hot Food Counters: Grab and go compliance

22 October 2021

Hot food counters in supermarkets are offering more prepackaged food options than ever before. Branching out from rotisserie chickens and sausage rolls, it’s possible to purchase hot desserts, curries, and everything in between. Catering to all tastes and diets, hot food counters are growing in popularity, and supermarkets are wising up to the market’s demands for more choices.

In fact, the food to go sector is set to grow to £22.8bn by 2023 compared to £17.8bn in 2018, a growth at twice the rate of overall grocery retail. With all this supermarket food to go, most franchises will need a reliable and adaptable labelling system to comply with food labelling laws, but firstly, how did hot food become so popular?

Food to go, on the go

The main reason behind the steep growth in prepacked for direct sale (PPDS) foods is the ease of access and relatively low price. With customers looking for an easy but fulfilling option when it comes to not only lunchtime but throughout the day, supermarkets can often fit the gap in the market. With the familiarity that chain supermarkets can offer and numerous locations that can be found in every corner of the UK, a customer can walk in and find the same options regardless of where they are in the country.

Not only this but the option of hot food is more satisfying for customers. More likely to make you feel full, hot food doesn’t just increase the time it takes for your appetite to return, but because of the organic compounds released in hot food, there’s more flavour and a stronger smell. It’s no wonder customers gravitate to the warm options over supermarket sandwiches.

Customers appear to be willing to spend more money on hot food, with an average basket value of £5.61 for hot food compared to £4.73 for chilled food to go. The stats are there to back it up also; in fact, 45% of shoppers would prefer more options when choosing hot food to go products, and one in three buys a hot item as part of their lunch. In order to keep up with demand, major chains and supermarkets are taking the appeal of hot deli counters and combining them with the resources of their supply chain to scale up food to go as an easy but cost-effective way to attract new customers and increase the amount spent.

Labelling foods

With the rapid rise in the food to go sector, PPDS or prepackaged for direct sale foods will need labelling that clearly states the food’s ingredients, with prominently displayed allergen information. Not only is this useful for customers with allergies or dietary requirements, but it has to be compliant with the recent developments in food law, specifically the recent ruling known as Natasha’s Law.

Legally referred to as the UK Food Information Amendment, October 2021 will see the amendment introduced. Affecting all PPDS foods, the required labels will be seen on a wide range of prepackaged foods that didn’t require them previously, not least foods sold in supermarkets. While the legislation will undoubtedly increase the confidence of customers with allergies when purchasing PPDS, it brings a unique set of problems to suppliers.

Requiring an easy-to-read label that complies with the amended law, the labelling ingredients should be as uniform across all stores as logos are for branding purposes. There’s also the complication of additional training for staff who’ll need to be able to print and apply the appropriate labels. In addition to this, should the ingredients list change, the labels required will have to change also.

If this sounds like enough of a headache to put you off your pasties, then Marka has developed a labelling system to take away the pain of labelling PPDS. Bespoke software that is easily adaptable to your needs, you can adjust any and all elements of a label, adding or removing ingredients where necessary. Any of the 14 food allergens that appear in your ingredients list are automatically shown in bold, so there’s no chance you or an employee could miss their inclusion.

Not only that, but the system is so easy to use that it can be operated and updated with minimal training. Should you find a product’s ingredients list needs changing, you can do so once and share the updated version across all the devices on your network, cutting the amount of work required drastically.

With some supermarkets doing away with in-store meat and fish counters to favour a wider variety of foods to go, the food to go sector is only set to continue to grow in popularity, with the potential of creating “food court” style areas within supermarkets.

If Marka’s unique labelling solution to PPDS sounds like it could save you from a stressful food to go counter, then please reach out to us here.