European consumers are today more at ease eating on the move than ever before, according to a new report from market analyst Datamonitor.
As the consumer spends more time travelling, social barriers to eating, drinking and grooming while on-the-move are starting to break down. The report recommends that food companies should learn from this phenomenon and use marketing to highlight the time-saving benefits of on-the-move consumption and emphasise that there is nothing unreasonable or selfish about grabbing a quick bite on your way to work.
According to the report in 2001, Europeans made an average of four journeys every day, and spent 1 hour everyday travelling. This time-pressure led to an expenditure of €68 billion (£42.5 billion) on food, drink and personal care products used while on-the-move.
Germany leads Europe in terms of number of journeys - 139 billion every year. The UK lies second with 100 billion. Sweden lies last with only 12 billion journeys per year. However, when journeys per person per day are considered, Germany's lead narrows. The average German makes 4.67 journeys every day, the average Briton makes 4.62. The Spanish make the fewest journeys per day - just 1.63.
Thanks to a more efficient transport system, the Germans do not spend the most time per day travelling. That honour belongs to the Italians, who spend just under 90 minutes every day getting from place to place. The average German travels for 1 hour exactly every day, just ahead of the UK, whose citizens spend 1 hour and five minutes travelling daily.
"On-the-move consumption is driven by a number of factors. Poor infrastructure is a major cause - if commuters can expect delays and cancellations on their journey, they will try and minimise its effect on their day by using the time to eat their breakfast, grab a coffee, or apply last-minute make-up.
Action by manufacturers and retailers has had an effect on on-the-move consumption. The availability of products such Nutrigrain introduced consumers to the idea that they could save time in the morning by eating while on-the-move," commented Andrew Russell, Datamonitor market analyst.
The vast majority of on-the-move spending is on food - €51 billion (£31 billion), the report continues. This is mainly spent on hand-held snacks - sandwiches, pasties, pizza slices and pies. Take-away comes a close second. The UK eats the most on-the-move despite not being the busiest country.
Travellers in the UK are also more likely to eat confectionery and snacks - 5 per cent of all UK travellers will have chocolate, crisps or sweets on the journey, compared to only 2.5 per cent in the rest of Europe. The Dutch are the leading consumers of hot snacks, followed closely by the French.
Perhaps as no surprise, in terms of spending per person, the UK is the European leader with €221 (£137) spent per person per year. The Dutch come second with only €167 (£103). The French spend €155 (£96) and the Germans only €121(£75).
On-the-move drinking is mainly focused on tea and coffee, especially in winter. The UK and the Netherlands are the most prolific consumers of drinks on-the-move - both spending €67 (£41) per head annually.
Again the UK is the European leader, this time for on-the-move drinking - 23 per cent of all on-the-move drinks are bought in Britain. This places the UK just ahead of Germany, at 21 per cent and well ahead of Spain and Sweden, at 2 per cent each. Although hot drinks tend to dominate the market there are some exceptions. In Spain, bottled water takes up the lion's share of on-the-move drinking.
One of the biggest barriers to on-the-move consumption, particularly outside the UK, is consumers' perception that eating, drinking and grooming in public is rude, asserts Datamonitor. Marketing needs to highlight the time-saving benefits of on-the-move consumption and emphasise that there is nothing unreasonable or selfish about grabbing a quick bite on your way to work. Better product design, the report maintains, will go a long way to removing concerns about annoying fellow passengers - if there is too much packaging, if the food produces a lot of crumbs or grease, and particularly if it smells, people feel uneasy about consuming it in close quarters. For drinks, and hot drinks in particular, the goal should be to design cups that minimise the risk of spillage - consumers' single biggest concern over purchasing hot drinks.
The report concludes that distribution to on-the-move consumers will hinge on identifying those points in the transport network where consumers are brought together in large numbers and saturating these points with vending machines, foodservice or retail units and mobile kiosks to reach the maximum number of travellers at one time. No place too hide.