Food Standards Scotland have published a new report “An Analysis of the Calorie Content of ‘Food on the Go’ Products in the Out of Home Sector in Scotland 2023”.

Working with the Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen), research was conducted to explore the calorie content of food on the go products available out of home in Scotland, between January and March 2023. Data was collected from 17 branded out of home businesses which commonly sell food on the go products.

Food on the go can be defined as food purchased for immediate consumption, with the expectation that it will not to be consumed within an establishment, for example, eaten outside, at work, or when travelling. Food on the go makes up the highest proportion of out of home eating occasions in Scotland (62%).

Key findings:

  • Burgers had the highest median calories (556 kcals) and maximum calories (1,155 kcals) per portion, and almost half (43%) were higher than 600 calories.
  • Sandwiches were the main meal food on the go category with the most products (59%), followed by pasta and pasta salads (9%) and other salads (8%).
  • When compared to the UK Government calorie reduction guidelines, the majority of the products were within the maximum calorie recommendations per portion.
  • There was little variation in the median calorie content per portion of food on the go offerings between business types.

This research only explored individual products, not those purchased in combination, such as part of a meal deal. However, almost half (46%) of the main meal products recorded could be purchased as part of a meal deal, including nearly half of sandwiches and almost all burgers. 

This research addressed an evidence gap by reporting on the calorie content of a wide range of main meal food on the go products available out of home in Scotland. For a more realistic representation of the calorie content of food on the go, future research exploring the calorie content and wider nutrition of meal deals could be beneficial.