While more Brits are making more sarnies at home to save money at lunchtime, plenty more are packing batch-cooked meals and leftover takeaways for their afternoon meal, Kantar data suggests.

“Italian and Indian dishes have seen gains,” says Kantar category executive Jacob Houlton. He points to respective 0.7ppt and 0.2ppt gains in share of packed lunch occasions in the year to 19 March 2023.

Chicken korma, lasagne and the like “are likely to be the biggest beneficiary of cost-saving cooking measures as they are easy to make cost-saving substitutions on, for example by using tinned products and removing meat”, Houlton adds. “They’re easy to prep and have a large presence on the dinner table.”

Vegetarian dishes have also increased their share of lunch occasions. They’re up 0.5ppts, and salads are up 0.7ppts. This is partly down to demand for healthier options, Houlton suggests, though conceptions of what constitutes healthier eating are changing.

Health has maintained its recovery at a macro level following a post-Covid dip. However, it is still less of a priority in the lunchbox than it was in 2019/20,” he says, adding that demand has declined for less processed lines and those low in fat, salt or sugar.

“While still behind 2019/20, offering health benefits such as fibre and vitamins has grown in importance, with a 0.3ppt gain as consumers still desire healthy options despite a lessening of interest in the more expensive ‘natural’ options,” he adds.

It’s also significant that savoury snacks have seen the greatest year-on-year decline in share of packed lunch occasions, falling 1.9ppts and appearing on 16 million fewer occasions. “Removing or not adding these supplemental items suggests customers are reducing the number of items in their lunchboxes as a cost-saving method,” says Houlton.

He notes fewer products were packed because consumers ‘fancied a change’ (down 0.5ppts) or because fewer partners or children requested them (down 1.3ppts).

“Pester power and enjoyment needs have declined in the past year, providing further evidence that the hunt for value is causing shoppers to make more decisions with the bottom line in mind.”

The new business lunch: lunchbox category report 2023