Procurement Trends Reshaping the UK Fast Food Industry

The fast-food industry in the UK, as part of the broader retail sector, is experiencing significant shifts in its procurement practices due to changing consumer preferences, technological advances and the need for sustainable operations.

As businesses strive to adapt and thrive in a competitive landscape, several key trends have emerged that are reshaping procurement strategies in the industry.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the top trends in global procurement within the UK fast-food and Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) retail sector:

Focus on Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing
  • Sustainable procurement: Fast food chains are increasingly prioritising sustainability within their procurement practices, sourcing ingredients that are environmentally friendly and ethically produced. This includes a focus on local sourcing to reduce carbon footprints and partnering with suppliers that adhere to sustainable farming practices.
  • Ethical sourcing: There is a growing emphasis on ethical sourcing, with fast food companies ensuring that their supply chains are free from labour or exploitation and that animal welfare standards are met.
Adoption of Digital Procurement Solutions
  • Digital platforms: The use of digital procurement platforms and e-sourcing tools is becoming more prevalent. These technologies streamline the procurement process, from supplier selection to contract management, enhancing efficiency and transparency.
  • Data analytics: Leveraging data analytics for procurement decisions allows fast food chains to optimize their supply chains, predict demand more accurately, and manage inventory levels effectively.
Focus on Supply Chain Resilience
  • Diversification of suppliers: To mitigate risks associated with supply chain disruptions, fast food retailers are diversifying their supplier base. This includes sourcing from multiple suppliers and regions to ensure a continuous supply of ingredients, when achievable.
  • Investment in supply chain technology: Technologies such as blockchain for traceability and IoT for real-time monitoring are being adopted to enhance supply chain resilience and visibility.
Strategic Supplier Relationships
  • Collaborative partnerships: A trend towards building long-term, collaborative relationships with suppliers exists. These partnerships focus on mutual growth, innovation, and flexibility, allowing for more responsive supply chains that adapt to changing market demands.
  • Supplier development: Fast food chains are investing in supplier development programs to enhance suppliers’ capabilities, ensuring quality and sustainability standards are met and maintained.
Shift Towards Plant-Based and Alternative Proteins
Focus on Packaging and Waste Reduction
  • Sustainable packaging: With increased awareness of plastic pollution, there is a push towards using sustainable packaging solutions. Fast food chains are sourcing biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable packaging materials to reduce environmental impact.
  • Waste reduction initiatives: Procurement practices are also focusing on reducing food waste through better inventory management and by partnering with suppliers that offer innovative solutions for waste reduction.
Localisation of supply chains
  • Local Sourcing: There’s a growing trend towards local sourcing, driven by the desire to support local economies, reduce transportation costs and decrease carbon emissions. Fast food chains are adjusting their procurement strategies to source more ingredients from local suppliers.


For wider reading about procurement in the fast-food sector check out these links

Ellen Macarthur Foundation: Food and the Circular Economy Deep Dive 

Mintel Insights: Latest Fast-food service industry trends

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