47% of people expected to eat lunch at home 5 times a week or more in six months’ time when surveyed in April 2021. This includes 33% of those in full-time employment. This not only reflects the monumental impact that COVID-19 has had on working life, but also points to the long-term opportunities for brands to target the lunch at home occasion.

The predicted long-term trend of flexible working will mean that the potential audience for lunch at home will be considerably bigger than it was before the pandemic. In addition, more people looking to move to less urbanised areas also stands to work in favour of people having lunch at home more and preparing such lunches themselves, as accessibility of other lunch options is a key factor for both and is traditionally limited in less populous areas.

With the continual easing of COVID-19 restrictions, competition from foodservice establishments is already beginning to re-emerge. Some foodservice operators are already looking to respond to the changes in people’s working and living preferences such as through exploring new channels and locations, and this is set to be a key factor in the threat that they will pose to lunch at home through retail.

The strong perception that snack products make lunch more satisfying, held by 51% of lunch eaters, offers welcome news for these to stay on the lunch menu even as the pandemic has dramatically reshaped this occasion. The trend for everyday lunches at home to be mostly prepared from scratch holds significant potential for brands able to position their snacks as an ingredient for lunch dishes rather than an accompaniment.

Key issues covered in this report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the lunch at home market

  • Frequency of eating lunch at home in spring 2021 and expected frequency in the autumn

  • Levels of cooking for lunch at home on everyday and leisure occasions and broad product types used to prepare/cook lunch at home

  • Consumer behaviours and attitudes related to lunch at home

  • Qualities most important for lunch at home on an everyday occasion.

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. Rapidly rising case numbers led to the first national lockdown, starting on 23 March. It wasn’t until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to reopen, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions further in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown.

On 22 February, Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to an easing of restrictions in England, starting with the reopening of schools on 8 March, followed by easing of restrictions on outdoor gatherings on 29 March. 12 April saw the reopening of non-essential retail, indoor leisure facilities and hospitality venues for outdoor service only. Further easing on limits on hospitality venues followed on 17 May, enabling restaurants and cafés to provide indoor service, though with social distancing. The Welsh and Scottish governments also gave more details on their plans to ease restrictions, with both nations taking a slightly more cautious approach to the one planned for England.

On 14 June, Boris Johnson announced that the proposed end to remaining restrictions had been postponed by a month until 19 July, due to concerns about the growing prevalence of the Delta variant.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020, with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines licensed for use in the UK. As of mid-June, the government had offered 79.8% of the adult population a first dose of the vaccine, on course to meet its target of offering every adult a first dose by the end of July.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its March 2021 Economic and Fiscal Outlook Report. After the fall of 9.9% over the course of 2020, the scenario suggests that UK GDP will grow by 4% in 2021 and 7.3% in 2022.

GDP is not expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels until the second quarter of 2022, although this is six months earlier than the OBR forecast in November 2020, mainly because of the faster than expected rollout of vaccines.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% in the fourth quarter of 2021. As with GDP, this is more positive than the OBR’s November forecast, but the OBR does raise the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors.

Topics covered in this Report

This Report looks at consumers’ behaviours and attitudes related to lunch at home. It explores the frequency of eating lunch at home and expected frequency in the future, as well as various related habits, priorities and attitudes.

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