For those manufacturers and distributors working with quick service restaurants (QSR) and casual dining chains, the news that food-on-the-go (FOTG) visits dropped earlier this year might not, on the face of it, seem to be positive.

However, the NPD Group, which conducted the survey, believes that technology, innovation, healthier choices and new formats will spur growth in 2016.

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Some of the potential opportunities identified by the research group included riding successful new product concepts and trends, getting closer to busy mobile consumers and satisfying demand for unexplored, exotic cuisines.

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However, the survey results found that FOTG visits declined by 1.8% in the year ending June ’15 while ‘on-premise’ visits grew by almost 5%.

NPG feels this may be the result of increasing competition as foodservice outlets of all kinds compete for a smaller number of visits (there were 438m fewer out-of-home visits in the year ending June ’15 compared to the year ending June ’09).

Operators – especially in the QSR and casual dining sectors – have invested significantly to improve the in-store offering to consumers. This renewed focus on ‘experience’ and ‘environment’ has contributed to the growth in ‘on-premise’ visits.

But the NPD Group points to a range of factors that could see the FOTG sector fight back. There are healthier FOTG product choices offering lower calories, lower fat and lactose-free, gluten-free and dairy-free options.

Eating on the go is becoming easier thanks to product innovations including more portable breakfasts as well as convenient pots and soups for lunch. Packaging is underlining authenticity, portability and premium quality.