Brown Baggin' It

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Today's hectic work schedule is eating into workers' lunchtime.

Eating at your desk again? Well, take heart, you're not alone. More than 45 percent of workers say they bring a packed lunch from home at least once a week, and 20 percent do it everyday, according to a study by research firm Datamonitor. In fact, for about a third of today's workers, "doing lunch" means doing without. More than 31 percent say they skip lunch altogether, and 11 percent do so at least once a week.

"People are really feeling that time is at a premium and that they don't want to waste it eating," says Sarah Nunny, who authored the report, "Changing Lunch Occasions." "Years ago, work was due at the end of the day. Deadlines now continue throughout the day and workers have to keep up with them, especially in international companies with offices all over the world. Also, many people are deciding that they would rather work through lunch and leave at a sociable time."

Other popular lunchtime habits stress the new eat-and-work ethic - 24 percent of employees grab take-out, 10 percent order in, and 4 percent depend on the office vending machine at least once during the week.

Several factors, including cost and health, may influence an employee's decision to skimp on lunch, but time seems to be the most prominent, says Nunny. Nowadays, workers are compelled to use the lunch break to make up time by multi-tasking or to catch up on their personal lives by running errands. But peer pressure is also an issue, she says. It can be hard to take a full lunch hour when colleagues won't.

Overall, 40 percent of workers do not feel that they are taking a proper lunch break. Employees aged 55 to 64 are even less likely to take a leisurely lunch - 47 percent claim not to take their full allotted time. And while their younger counterparts, workers aged 18 to 34, are more likely to take their break - just 39 percent say they shortened the lunch hour - they are more likely than other age groups to use the time for activities other than eating. Fifty-five percent of that group admits that they shop, run errands, or exercise during lunch.

For marketers interested in reaching these grab-it-and-go consumers, convenience is key. A major food trend, noted by Datamonitor, is the growing popularity of handheld lunch options. Already, 30 percent of all workers eat wraps for lunch, and 27 percent eat meat sandwiches. But lunch decisions can be a battle of the sexes, since women are more likely than men to reach for healthier fare. Twenty percent of women munch on salads compared with 8 percent of men. On the flip side, 19 percent of men lunch on hamburgers, compared with just 13 percent of women. Now there's some food for thought.

For more information, call Datamonitor at (212) 686-7400 or visit

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