With Christmas fast approaching, Europeans will soon be gathering around the table to eat and drink among friends and family. However, according to Mintel, nearly one-third of Europeans often eat every meal alone. The Polish (40%) lead all Europeans in this statistic, while one-third (33%) of the British eat all their meals alone. 31% of Germans, 30% of the French, and 29% of Spaniards and Italians surveyed claim they also do not join others during meals.
Even though many consumers today are still eating solo, much of Europe sees the importance of family mealtimes. More than eight in 10 (84%) Spanish, Italian (83%) and French (82%) consumers believe eating a family meal is important. They are joined by 79% of Polish, 78% of German and 75% of British consumers.
“Increasingly busy lifestyles are resulting in less time for nearly everything, including shared meals…what’s more, with consumers struggling to pull themselves away from their mobile phones, some have grown to prefer the company of their digital devices over eating with others,” says Edward Bargen, Mintel food and drink analyst. “With the festive period finally here, many consumers will relish the chance to come together, fulfilling a desire that is becoming more challenging for the busy, modern consumer.”
A feast of bad table manners
Technology takes its toll on mealtimes. Anxious not to miss a moment of precious phone time, over half (55%) of Spanish consumers admit to often using their phones to talk or text while having meals. But it seems they are not alone, as Polish (53%) and Italian (51%) consumers are also guilty of this dining faux pas. The British (32%), the Germans (21%), and the French (23%) are less likely to whip out their phones whilst eating.
Other screens are proving something of a distraction too. Famed for a love of TV, seven in 10 (71%) Brits often eat meals while using home entertainment technology such as watching TV and gaming. They are joined by the Polish (68%), the Spanish (59%) and the Italians (57%). Highlighting the importance of good table manners, it seems technology at mealtimes is less likely in German (44%) and French (50%) households.
“There are opportunities for brands to tap into consumers’ interest in their digital devices and encourage them to think more about what they eat and drink. For example, they can provide food planning apps to help with meal choices and cooking skills,” says Edward Bergen, Mintel food and drink analyst. “In order to grab consumers’ attention in our device obsessed world, food and drink brands also need to utilize as many techniques as possible to engage people beyond taste, such as through texture, color and scent.”