LUNCHTIME – It’s lunchtime – time to grab a bite of the market

It’s lunchtime – time to stop working, grab a bite and recharge. Recent years have seen UK multiple grocers, from supermarkets to co-ops and convenience store chains, addressing the lunchtime opportunity at the front of store, and chasing the holy grail of variable merchandising, depending on the time of day. But there’s still a long way to go.

Whatever the economy’s doing, lunch is an essential purchase for many consumers. But it’s also a highly price sensitive market. According to Mintel, although a fifth of people who eat at lunchtime prefer sandwiches made for them on the spot in a café or sandwich bar, rather than pre-packed ones, only 8% believe it’s worth paying over the odds for the privilege. Demonstrating ‘added value’ to consumers is a key concern for retailers targeting the lunchtime business, with nearly four in ten consumers regarding shop-bought sandwiches as over-priced.

Fresh ‘real’ food is a major trend in the eating out market as a whole, and is particularly important to the lunchtime market. In a twist on the wider trend to healthy eating, demand for ‘light’ lunches outweighs the demand for calorie-controlled products. Grazing and snacking is another key trend in lunchtime purchasing, just as it is in the convenience market as a whole, with a quarter of consumers admitting that they often eat snacks while on the move rather than eating a proper meal.

Some like it hot at lunchtime. Lunchtime eating at work is a clear opportunity for soup manufacturers. Mintel identify clear opportunities through which soup manufacturers can encourage usage among the 16-24 age group, such as introducing more soup variants with ‘fillingness’ claims, which should appeal to the 48% of them who would eat soup more often if it filled them up.

And with growing numbers of workplaces supplying a microwave for staff, we can expect to see more lunchtime sector activity in 2013 from the market-leading Kepak Convenience Foods. This year they invested in their hot snacking brand, ZUGO’s Deli Café, with a national sampling campaign featuring Italian singing gondoliers. The ZUGO’s Deli Café Singing Gondoliers sampled in high footfall city centres and office environments across the UK and Ireland, including London, Glasgow and Dublin.

In Kepak’s research with Kantar looking at hot meals prepared in under 10 minutes, one of the major target groups identified is women aged 55-64, many of whom work full or part time and want a functional lunch. One third of Zugo’s sales currently go to them, and there’s plenty of further potential.

The growing over-55 demographic could be a lucrative group for developing sales of lunchtime products. As empty nesters, likely to be looking after themselves and their partner rather than a family, they are more likely to live in smaller households and eat ready meals or microwaveable hot snacks at lunchtime

Lastly, with health a concern and a priority for the ageing population, lunchtime NPD focused on added benefits such as cholesterol-lowering spreads, as seen in functional food products such as Benecol would appeal to older workers and could be a means of generating interest in new food products.

The Grocery Trader