The main reason behind fragmented meal times is down to consumers’ busier lifestyles and an increase in snacking, according to Euromonitor International’s new How We Eat: The Changing Face of Global Mealtimes report.
“Changing lifestyles have led to a breakdown in the structure of meal times, with more people snacking and grazing throughout the day, rather than having the more traditional three meals per day,” said the report.
“Snacks are no longer confined to confectionery or potato products, but are more likely to include yogurts, meat snacks and vegetables, and are much more likely to be healthy, protein-centric and fresh.”
To capitalise on blurred meal times, snacking manufacturers had diversified their offering to attract more consumers in the food-to-go segment.
Lunchtime most formalised
However, lunchtime was the most ‘formalised’ meal in terms of timings, according to the research, which showed 80% of consumers in the nine countries surveyed ate the meal between 12noon and 1pm every day.
Lunch was also the most popular meal to eat out of home, with more than 20% of UK respondents claiming to do so up to twice a week, more than 10% claim to take lunch out of home up to four times a week and more than 5% were do so up to five times a week.
A key factor in attracting the lunch market is to target the likes of office workers with dishes they can consume at their desks if necessary, claimed the report.
Lunch is the meal most commonly eaten outside of the home, with office workers in particular, eating at their desk or eating at low-priced restaurants catering to the lunchtime trade, the data showed.
“When it comes to casual lunching outside the home, women are much more likely than men to eat lunch out once a week; older age groups (60-plus) also peak at this frequency,” the report continued.
‘Eating out for lunch’
“However, men and younger consumer lead the way when it comes to eating out regularly for lunch. Men dine out more than women at the 5 to 6 times a week frequency, while it is the 30 to 44 age group that peaks at this frequency in age terms.”
Meanwhile, evening meals did not take place in any of the countries surveyed at one particular time.
The report said: “Evening meal times vary enormously, both across countries and across households. China has lost the most fixed evening meal times, with more than 50% of respondents eating between 6pm and 7pm, followed by France, where around 50% eat between 7pm and 8pm.
“In most countries, 95% or more claim to eat a meal between 5pm and midnight.”
For those who consume food or drink out of home, the majority (55%) were more likely to buy a soft drink, while half would buy a snack and roughly 49% would buy lunch, the report showed. Just over 40% will buy dinner away from home, 35% alcohol and 30% breakfast.