Pre-made sandwiches, salads, pastas and burgers will be collectively worth £22.7 billion by 2026, up 20 per cent from pre-Covid levels.
According to IGD, food-to-go will recover from a “significant” lockdown hit and reach its 2019 value by late 2022.
Although the sector will show “better-than-expected” growth over the next six years, much of the early momentum will come from fast food restaurants and coffee shops.
Outlets like McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC have already increased their market share to 79 per cent from 77 per cent two years ago.
“Cooking fatigue” prompted by the closure of hospitality businesses is thought to have spurred this trend.
However, retail food-to-go is expected to become steadily more popular from around 2026.
“The challenge for retailers now is whether they can close the gap in market share,” IGD senior analyst Nicola Knight said.
“In 2021, retailers have faced increased competition from foodservice operators who adapted quickly to changing consumer habits and demands.
“Due to the decrease in demand and shift in shopping habits, retailers reallocated space to other categories.”
She added that the success of retail food-to-go would depend on how quickly shops could adapt to changing behaviours.
It came as Greencore revealed “strong revenue momentum” in Q3, up by 49.7 per cent last year.
The Marks and Spencer sandwich maker has raised its 2021 profit expectations by between £3.5 and £7.5 million.