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Younger workers are more likely to buy lunch on a work day

London, 23 October 2012

  • Over half (56%) of UK workers purchase lunch out of home at least once a week
  • Buying lunch during the working week occurs most in London

Research conducted by consumer experts Canadean Consumer has found that on average, over half (56%) of UK full time workers purchase and consume lunch out of home at least once during the working week. The research found that this habit is most prevalent among 18 to 24 year olds, who on average purchase lunch out of home on 1.96 occasions per working week (compared to the national average of 1.54). Buying lunch is also more frequent among workers in London, with an average of 1.89 occasions per working week.

When asked how often lunch is purchased and consumed out of home during the working week, 56% of full time workers said that they buy lunch at least once a week. However there were some notable differences between age groups. Young full time workers, aged 18–24 years, are most likely to buy lunch at least once during their working week (72%), with an overall average of 1.96 lunches purchased out of home per week. This average drops with age: 25-34 year olds (1.76); 35-44 year olds (1.64); 45-54 year olds (1.41); and over 55 year olds (1.07).

Canadean Consumer Research Manager Alex Wilman, who analysed the findings, points to differences in lifestyle as a possible reason for this trend: “Workers under the age of 34 may be more likely to feel occupied on their weeknights, through socialising with friends for example, but this encroaches on the time at the end of the day where many workers will prepare their lunch for the following day.” Wilman also suggests that as workers get older, they become to realise the true expense of buying food each lunch break, as opposed to eating food prepared at home. “Over the course of the year, a worker who takes a packed lunch to work each day may be hundreds of pounds up on a colleague who regularly buys their lunch. Young full time workers may not fully recognise the financial impact of buying lunch, especially as many at this age may be financially responsible for themselves only. However, as workers grow older and as family and financial commitments are likely to increase, the financial impact of buying lunch regularly, something which is ultimately an avoidable expense, may become more apparent to workers”.

As well as younger full-time workers, the propensity for purchasing lunch out of home during the working week is highest among full-time workers in London. Two thirds (66%) of workers based in the capital buy lunch out of home at least once during the working week (compared to the national average of 56%), working out to an average of 1.89 occasions a week. According to Wilman: “With job opportunities and the average salary highest in London, it is no surprise that lunch time “luxuries” are pursued more regularly in the capital, particularly when coupled with the wealth of lunchtime outlets which London has to offer.”

Most supermarkets offer ‘meal deals’ which give the consumer a lot of value. For the convenience of not having to buy and prepare their own meal, many appear well-prepared to pay the asking price, at least once a week. Wilman offers a final suggestion: “We’re working longer hours and many in employment feel high levels of stress daily. For some, having a reason to leave the workplace and not eat a packed lunch on-the-job can be invaluable – well worth the expense of the lunch itself.”

Figure 1: As consumers get older, their willingness to purchase lunch decreases. Average number of occasions per working week. Base: Full time workers only, n=1,174

Younger workers are more likely to buy lunch on a work day

Source: Canadean © Canadean

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