Brits shift away from traditional to take out meals

September 3, 2004, as reported by just-food.com: Britain is trending away from traditional sit-down meals and toward “grab-and-go” convenience according to a new report from independent market analyst Datamonitor. People in Britain will eat 2.7 billion less meals at home while increasing their snacks consumption, the report predicts.

"With the rise of 'flexi-eating', food consumption is increasingly fitting around people's needs and lifestyles, rather than people fitting their lives around structured mealtimes," said Daniel Bone, consumer analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report.

Breakfast - the most frequently missed meal

Brits are more likely than their European counterparts to miss breakfast. In 2003, British people skipped on average 113 breakfasts a year per person, and Datamonitor forecasts this will increase to almost 120 in 2008. In comparison, Europeans missed on average 71 breakfasts a year per person in 2003.

"Convenience and time pressures are more apparent in the morning. Even when consumers are having breakfast at home they are taking less time to prepare it," said Bone.

Eating out-of-home is big business and getting bigger

In 2003, out-of-home consumption accounted for 31.6% of all eating occasions, and is set to rise to over 35% by 2008 – this represents an additional 3 billion breakfast, lunch and evening meals eaten out-of-home. In contrast, the number of in-home breakfasts, lunches, and dinner occasions will decline by 2.7 billion occasions over the same time period.

"The growing number of out-of-home occasions does not mean British dislike eating at home. It is a lifestyle driven trend with time-poor consumers increasingly embracing innovative meal and snack solutions that facilitate on-the-go consumption," added Bone.

Even when consumers eat at home, they want minimal fuss and preparation. Convenience-based needs are driving growth in the number of 'pit-stop dining' occasions where consumers seek near instant gratification from easy to prepare meal solutions.

The foodservice sector is set to benefit from increased out-of-home food consumption. Datamonitor forecasts that the value of UK foodservice consumption will increase by 17.5%, from £30.5bn (US$54.6bn) in 2003 to £36bn in 2008.

Spending on snacking to increase by 20%

By 2008, snacking will account for 44% of all eating occasions, and Brits will spend a total of £10.3bn on bakery items, bagged snacks, dairy snacks, fruit and vegetables, and confectionery alone. This represents an increase of over 20% on 2003 levels. Overall, Datamonitor forecasts that the total number of snack occasions consumed outside of a main meal in the UK will increase from 41 billion in 2003 to almost 43 billion in 2008. This means that a typical consumer will snack on 27.4 more occasions in 2008 than 2003. As consumers skip meals more often, they turn to snacks to help compensate for lost nutrients and energy. "Consumers increasingly view snacks as a positive part of their daily nutrition and are demanding healthier, and more filling options," said Bone.

Desk-bound Brits spend over £6bn on desktop dining

The UK leads Europe in workers' spending on food and drinks for the workplace - this is due to a culture which places less emphasis on the social aspects of workplace lunches and offers greater flexibility in working hours to employees. As working hours become more flexible, the 'lunch hour' no longer seems to exist in many workplaces, with consumers instead eating two and three times a day while at work. The French, Spanish and Italians are much more likely to choose restaurants and cafés, making a full-blown social occasion out of lunch, while the Germans, Swedes and Dutch prefer canteens as a functional and practical solution to the problem of eating at work.

One area where the UK is notably different from the rest of Europe is in the number of workplace breakfasts, giving rise to the term 'deskfasts'. In 2003, British workers spent over £1bn on breakfast at work - this compares to only £200m in France.