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How Europeans Embrace Relaxation, Connection and Food Exploration During Break Times

Breakfast Trends, Consumer Insights, Europe, Food Trends

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In today’s fast-paced world, our eating habits are often influenced by the breaks we take throughout the day. A recent survey conducted by Datassential across six European countries – France, the UK, Spain, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands – shed light on how individuals approach their consumption habits during designated meal times and other breaks in their daily routine. The food and beverage intelligence insights gathered from consumers in these diverse regions offer valuable perspectives on the role that breaks play in shaping our dietary choices.

From savouring a leisurely breakfast to grabbing a quick snack during a mid-morning break, our food preferences at different times of the day can vary significantly. By exploring how individuals in these European countries navigate their eating habits during various breaks, we can uncover patterns and food trends that highlight the impact of breaks on our overall dietary intake.

Breakfast is King

Even with a limited amount of hours in a day, consumers still carve out time and start with breakfast. Considered an important meal of the day, it is one widely consumed at home – by more than 8 out of 10 consumers surveyed across Europe.

How are Europeans breaking their fast? Trends show a preference for fresh, ready-to-eat food products like bread, yoghurt and fruit. Though bread is the most common breakfast staple, the way it is eaten differs across the continent. In France, consumers have more of a sweet tooth and like pairing bread with butter and jam, whereas in Germany and the UK, savoury items like charcuterie and eggs are favoured. In Spain, nearly 40% of consumers appreciate having a wide range of products both savoury and sweet to start the day.

Cost, whether in terms of time or money, is a large factor in deciding where to eat breakfast. Nearly a quarter of Germans prefer to eat breakfast outside the home to save time on preparation. Au contraire, in France, consumers choose to eat breakfast at home especially because they enjoy the act of preparing the meal.

Further south, the majority of Spanish consumers surveyed report a preference for staying at the place of purchase to enjoy their breakfast, whereas in the Netherlands and the UK, breakfast on the go is more popular. A third of Brits consume their packaged, ready-to-eat meal while walking to work.

These contrasting breakfast habits across Europe highlight the importance of foodservice professionals having up-to-date market and industry data to develop effective sales strategies.

Though Europeans largely enjoy a breakfast routine, with the majority eating the same type of products daily, more than a third switch things up on the weekend. This is especially true in Germany, where almost half of consumers surveyed eat a different breakfast on the weekend than during the week. This presents an opportunity for European chain restaurants or independent restaurants to tap into the weekend desire for novelty in breakfast options.

To Go, or Not To Go?

Compared to other Europeans, consumers in Spain and the UK are more likely to eat lunch away from home. And while the data shows most Europeans eat lunch solo, whether at home or away from home, in Spain it is a more communal affair. Nearly half of the Spaniards surveyed prefer to have lunch with one or more family members.

It is common for Europeans to eat home-cooked meals for lunch, whether prepared the same day or the day before, or even a defrosted home-cooked meal. More than half of Britons assemble their lunch from store-bought food that they purchase themselves. In the UK and Germany, compared to other European countries, food delivery services are more popular at lunchtime given that a quarter of those surveyed have their lunch delivered.

As with lunch, in France, home-cooked dinners are more popular, though 40% of French consumers enjoy ready-to-eat meals purchased from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. In the UK, Germany and Spain, over a third of consumers make use of delivery services for the final meal of the day.

Pause for a Cause

Outside of regular meal times, working consumers are motivated to take breaks for various reasons, such as to regain energy, out of habit, or simply to enjoy a snack or beverage. But snacking during break time is about more than satiating hunger, especially in France where consumers see this time as an opportunity to share a moment with someone. Supermarkets or grocery stores are popular locations to purchase daytime snacks which are then eaten at work. In Germany however, almost 40% of consumers eat home-prepared snacks at the workplace. Interestingly, when teleworking, consumers are less likely to take breaks than when in the office, though when they do, they consume a bit more than they would at the workplace.

Looking Ahead

While most Europeans seem satisfied with their current frequency and duration of breaks during the day, one-third of Spanish respondents think the number of daily breaks should be increased, and a quarter think the length of each break should be extended.

However, the majority of consumers are more concerned with what they are eating. One in three respondents across France, Spain and Germany want greater transparency in product origins and fewer additives in their snacks. Additionally, 30% of Germans expressed a desire for more high-quality products or ingredients.

This industry data and additional food intelligence insights found in our latest report titled The Influence of Breaks are invaluable tools for foodservice operators seeking to enhance their decision-making processes and drive their development forward. There is much more to learn in the full report, including contexts in which breaks are taken and meals are consumed, along with the factors influencing Europeans’ snacking choices. Click here and discover how Datassential can assist in boosting your business.

Raphaelle Agier is Datassential’s Vice President of Customer Experience for EMEA and Latin America.