The North America inflight catering market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 3% during the forecast period.
- The intense competitive scenario in the aviation sector has encouraged the airline operators to create their unique brand identity. Inflight catering has emerged as a prime criterion for differentiating the quality of services provided by different airlines and helps to create an outlook of the passengers towards perceiving an airline. The realization of this fact has encouraged the North American airlines to invest significant resources to develop a profitable inflight catering service, that serves the tastes of the passengers, and safeguards the market share of the airlines.
- The inflight catering business has witnessed a radical transformation during the past decade. Though North American airlines are not completely encouraging the BYOF (Bring-Your-Own-Food) on international flights, passengers are permitted to carry their eatables on several domestic routes in the region, especially in the US. The penetration of BYOF may pose a threat to the market in focus in the future.
- The lucrative nature of the inflight catering business has encouraged the entry of several global brands that are well-equipped to conform to the high quality and safety regulations of the aviation industry. The entry of new market players and the advent of e-ordering services is expected to radically transform the prevalent practice of long-term association of airlines with their catering partners and is expected to provide both the airlines and the passengers with a plethora of choices.
Key Market Trends
Increasing Competition Driving Improvements in the Inflight Dining Experience
The enhanced competition amongst the airlines has encouraged them to adopt certain strategies aimed at elevating the customer perception of the inflight dining experience. To comply with hybrid operational scenarios while providing service to the customers, airlines are using different service strategies on different classes on the same flight. For instance, while providing quality services at a premium price to high-value customers (in business and first-class), airlines are also offering lower price alternatives to passengers in economy class, thereby, establishing tier-based complimentary onboard services. The market is expected to witness impressive levels of growth, as North American carriers consider options to improve the quality of food served on their fleet. The diversified cuisine and dietary choices of the passengers have encouraged airlines to serve different meals on special routes. For instance, Delta Airlines has different partners providing authentic regional dishes on select routes, both domestic and international. While Atlanta-based Linton Hopkins dishes up menus inspired by artisan foods of the American South on flights from Atlanta to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Rome or Stuttgart, passengers on the flights to and from China and Japan, enjoy menus created by Chef Jereme Leung (China) and Chef Norio Ueno (Japan).
US to Dominate the Market During the Upcoming Period
The North American diet varies considerably with each state. Eating habits of the two major North American countries, the US and Canada, differ considerably from each other. In Canada, food intake in the Quebec region differs from the rest of the provinces. Smaller countries in the continent vary even more. So carriers have to arrange and stock up food accordingly, sufficing to their routes and the region they are operating in. The trend is, however, more toward eating healthy food, which is observed throughout the continent, particularly in the United States. More than 1/4th of the US citizens, still consume fast food every day, but the percentage is dropping gradually. The high obesity rate is a critical concern behind the changing food pattern. Healthy food has achieved significant traction. Food, like yogurt, poultry, sandwiches, and fresh fruits, has witnessed a spike in demand, in the field of inflight catering. Besides, the country is also a large market for chocolates, bakeries, and other confectionaries. The demand for low-calorie meals has resulted in a significant change in the food offerings during flights.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the North American inflight catering market. Additional quality measures have been implemented in the kitchens to ensure zero transmission of infection via onboard food. However, some airlines, such as Southwest and American Airlines, have eliminated or reduced the food and drink services offered on most flights. To help prevent the spread of the virus, airlines have also closed airport lounges, stepped up cleaning procedures in the cabins, and suspended hot towel service for first-class passengers, among other changes. Since March 2020, Southwest Airlines has suspended snack and beverage service on all flights, while American Airlines has stopped serving food on short-duration flights (less than 4.5 hrs) and an onboard meal is served only for long-haul international flights. Delta Air Lines has reduced onboard services by eliminating alcoholic drinks and offering only bottled beverages, while Alaska Airlines will not offer food or drinks on flights shorter than 250 miles, including in first-class. However, on longer flights, Alaska Airlines would serve only bottled beverages and packaged snacks.
The North America inflight catering market is undergoing a slow but steady consolidation, with major players procuring other significant regional players. Gate Gourmet, which started as a small inflight caterer has, over the years, procured most of its competitors, and it now stands at the top of the global inflight catering market share, by revenue. Its geographical presence has also expanded significantly during the past decade, solidifying its presence and customers across international regions. Market consolidation has allowed smaller regional players to target just one competitor to survive in the market, while it also allowed new entrants to enter the market, with lesser resistance due to cheaper services. LSG Sky Chef, gategroup, Journey Group PLC, and Flying Food Group are some of the prominent players in the North America inflight catering market.
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