Many of Britain's workers spend more money each day on snacks than they do their midday meal, according to research by caterer Eurest.
The Eurest Lunchtime Report 2004 reveals that almost half (47.5%) of workers fork out £3.10 a day each on snacks. This is considerably more than they pay for lunch, a meal that costs, on average, £2.02 a head.
This is the first time that the price of snacks has featured in the survey of the UK's lunchtime eating habits, published every other year by Eurest, part of Compass Group. A total of 2,000 adults were polled nationwide.
Another key finding is that the length of the average lunch break is only 27 minutes, two minutes less than in 2002, and that fewer than one in five people take a full hour. Women are more likely to skip lunch altogether.
Overall, the report paints a picture of a long-hours culture leaving workers no time to relax over a meal or to build exercise into their day. On the plus side, one in three workers is concerned about fat and calorie intake, while the most important factor in choosing lunch is taste, followed by health, price and quality. Sandwiches are the preferred lunchtime food, followed by fruit and salad. Tea is the number-one drink. Where available, staff restaurants are workers' favourite places to lunch, with more than one-third (34%) using them four or five times a week.
Don Davenport, chief executive officer of Compass Group UK & Ireland, said: "With little time available for lunch, and growing attention focused on healthy lifestyles and diets, workers are increasingly looking to their employers to provide catering facilities offering them the opportunity to relax and enjoy a range of healthy eating options, without leaving work."
The 10th edition of the Eurest Lunchtime Report costs £25. For a copy, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lunchtime report key findings - More than half of all British workers (57%) take a lunch break every day, but one in five (20%) does not.
- More than one-third of workers bring in a packed lunch.
- Average cost of lunch is £2.02.
- More than 50% do not have access to a staff restaurant.
- Just 1% admitted to a lunchtime tipple, the same number as have sex during their lunch break.
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 15 July 2004