While much of the focus on Tesco’s merger with wholesaler Booker has centred on retail competition issues, catering supply is one of the central motivators of the tie-up.

Booker’s deals with well-known names such as Carluccio’s, Rick Stein and Wagamama, as well as many other eateries, add a lip-smacking new business category to Tesco’s menu – and one that could be profitably grown.

When details of the merger were disclosed in January, Tesco said that along with the opportunity to better serve shoppers, the merged business would also be able to “serve better the faster-growing ‘out of home’ food market”.

Here we take a look at some key statistics that illustrate the rationale and opportunity of foodservice supply for Tesco/Booker.


The forecast value of UK grocery wholesale by 2021, driven by foodservice, according to food industry body IGD. That represents a compound annual growth rate of 0.9%.

The forecast breaks down to a compound annual rate of 2.5% for delivered foodservice, 0.5% for delivered grocery and 0.1% for retail-led cash and carry.

In 2016, a 0.3% increase in grocery wholesalers’ revenues was powered by foodservice, where sales increased by 2.1%.


Approximate proportion of Booker’s sales already made to the catering sector. The fact that Tesco is not a competitor in that field was cited by the Competition and Markets Authority as evidence that the grocer and wholesaler “do not compete head to head in most of their activities”.

Booker’s strength in the category is one of the factors that made it an appetising acquisition for Tesco, as consumers increasingly eat out of home.


Advance in like-for-like sales by Booker to caterers in its last full year. That figure was compared with a 0.6% decline in like-for-like sales to retailers.

Sales to group accounts, such as Rick Stein and Hoseasons, climbed 21% over the year. Booker’s Chef Direct arm, serving chains including Prezzo and Byron Burgers, rose 46%, illustrating how the market is growing.


Booker’s share of foodservice wholesale in 2016, according the IGD. That puts Booker just behind Brakes, which controls 18% following its merger with Fresh Direct two years ago, and just ahead of Bidvest, which speaks for 15% of the market.

Other players such as Costco and Fairway control single-digit shares, but 31% of the market is held by ‘others’ – illustrating the opportunity that Booker has to build its supply business with caterers.


Value of the food-to-go retail market by 2022, according to IGD. This market segment is likely to deliver compound annual growth of 8.4% from this year until then, and is being led by businesses such as Greggs, Eat and Leon.

It is expected to overtake quick-service restaurants to become the biggest part of the food-to-go market, with sales rising from £5.1bn in 2017 to £8.4bn in 2022.

Supermarkets generate sales of £1.3bn from food-to-go at present, and the figure is expected to climb from £1.3bn to £5.9bn.


Wholesale delivered foodservice revenues from chilled and fresh food in 2016. Such lines represent the biggest category by value in delivered foodservice and rose 3% in 2016.

Chilled and fresh are a key battleground and were identified by the IGD as “demonstrating clear opportunities for wholesalers”.

Tesco said in January that a tie-up with Booker would create “a clear opportunity to develop better own-brand and fresh ranges”.

While stores and retail are foundation stones of Tesco and Booker’s merger, the deal, if it comes good on ambitions, will make the top grocer a more powerful player in a changing food consumption landscape.