Healthy eating is still way down on the list of working consumer priorities according to contract caterer Sodexo's Lunch at Work report, despite rising obesity and the increasing focus on the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Taste, good value and convenience were deemed more important than healthy eating, according to the survey launched today in conduction with trend analysts Allegra Strategies at the Lunch! exhibition.
One in 10 people polled were found to be skipping lunch at least once a week, which the report said is having a detrimental impact on their employers as 60% of these admitted that they are less productive as a result.
The average time spent for lunch is 29 minutes, while the average spend was found to be £2.21. About 50% regularly eat lunch at their desk and the majority of these employees, 87%, prefer a lighter lunch.
Despite new initiatives such as calorie labelling, only about a third (33%) look at calorie content when considering healthier options.
Packed lunch remains the most popular, with a third of adults bringing their lunch to work three to four times a week. Staff restaurants are the second most popular destination for lunch after supermarkets but 61% of those surveyed do not have access to a staff restaurant. The report suggested this is probably because 97% of UK companies have less than 50 employees.
Good value for money was key for lunch buyers, with 80% claiming this was very important or important, in their decision-making process, yet the survey also revealed that three-quarters of employees do not rate meal deals as important when deciding what to eat and drink at lunch. Only a third buy a meal deal regularly.
Claire Morris, marketing director at Sodexo, said: "This survey is important as it helps us understand what is important to employees and to meet those needs. However we believe that it is essential that we provide food that is healthy and sustainable, even if this is not top of their wish list."
Simon Stenning, food service strategy director at Allegra, added: "It is no surprise that value is a key driver for workers' habits which is fuelling the increase in packed lunches. Workers have greater control over expenditure but also over ingredients when preparing their own lunch.
"For operators providing lunch at work, improving affordability and presenting more detailed nutritional information will help convert committed brown-baggers to regular lunch buyers."
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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