Market disruption has redefined the AFH channel

Growth opportunities do exist in the Away from Home (AFH) channel for suppliers, operators and distributors, but market dynamics have changed and operators need to incorporate these trends into growth plans.

The AFH channel represents end-user businesses where prepared food or beverages are served for consumption – some 100,000 on or off premises outlets, supplied via multiple distributors and representing 37% of food / non-alcoholic purchases.

COVID has been a massive disruption but with roadmaps to recovery now rolling out, vaccination targets on track, border and other restrictions being lifted we will see a bounce back leading up to Christmas.

2022 is set to be verry different.  As restrictions are eased, we will see increased people movement both locally and internationally.  Forecast rate of recovery will vary by geography, customer segment and product category.

What’s changed?

Market volatility and disruption has redefined AFH channel dynamics.  There is an increased overlap and blurring of lines as to where retail, foodservice, B2B and B2C operators play.

Woolworth’s evolving “Food and Everyday Needs Ecosystem” strategy for example – 35% stake in PFD, Woolworths at Work delivery platform, P&C footprint, and joint ventures with Beak & Johnston for prepared meals.




Shifting demographics and lifestyles have also reshaped the AFH channel, creating a changed operating environment and unleashing renewed opportunities for growth – faster rate than the Retail in future years

Emergence and acceptance of on-line ordering and delivery platforms; e-commerce and prepared meals also reflect these changes.

Key AFH business driver trends to consider:

  1. Product

✓ Health, nutrition, wellbeing, free from, organic product attributes
✓ Demands for branded premium product offerings
✓ Ready to Eat, Ready to Go prepared meals and components
✓ Quality products that are safe, reduce costs and food waste

  1. Customer

✓ Emerging markets – Contract Packing, B2B, B2C, Prepared Meals, Health distributors
✓ Increased local / regional food sourcing practices
✓ P&C increased food to go / prepared food offers, health care quality prepared meals
✓ Overlap of retail, foodservice, B2B and B2C distribution footprint


  1. Consumer

✓ Consumer purchasing changes – shifting demographics and lifestyles – increased snacking, food to go and prepared food
✓ Sustainability, eco-friendly, environmentally friendly packaging
✓ Food safety, responsible and ethical behaviours

  1. Operator

✓ Operator acceptance for buy-in product, components and ingredients
✓ Increased consolidation of suppliers, operators and distributors
✓ M&A, Joint Venture activity – Superior Foodservices / Quadrant PE, SPC acquisition Pomlife & the Kuisine Company, Australian Venue Company pub acquisitions

  1. Technology

✓ Digital transformation and adoption of new technology across the AFH supply chain


Is your business AFH ready?

Good businesses respond to unexpected market challenges. Agility is the key to success in the AFH channel but it requires a rethink to navigate change.

Opportunities exist across products, channels and customers but not without risks – navigating the route to AFH buyers and managing the logistical complexities changes now requires a very different strategy.


Ask yourself, is my business relevant, a good fit, well positioned, prepared to undertake the upfront work and invest resources to grow – get it right first time.

Given the volatility, disruption and changes in AFH channel dynamics, seeking independent advice and an experienced resource increases probability of success for future growth.

Understanding what’s changed, and with the right strategy, businesses can sell more product at better margins, to maximise profit mix and return on investment.


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