The recessionary climate may have put paid to the business lunch, but it has not stopped consumers treating themselves.

The trend for working through lunch hours has led to an emergent premium lunchbox market, with workers compensating for not going out by indulging in quality lunchbox content, says Sara Jones, trade marketing executive for fine foods distributor RH Amar.

Products such as Gaea's range of tapenades in 100g jars lend themselves to this, she says. She also points to a growing demand for convenient, single-serve packets of deli products that suit out-of-home occasions, such as RH Amar's Crespo olives brand, which recently introduced snacking pouches complete with a cocktail stick.

"Merchandising these on clip strips means they are in snacking and convenience aisles, driving impulse purchases," she adds. Patchwork Pâté MD Rufus Carter also subscribes to the gourmet lunchbox theory. His company launched with 900g jars of pâté, but later began targeting the lunchbox market with 120g and 50g pots. 

"We want to play on the idea of people luxuriating over lunch. The great thing about an indulgent lunchbox is that a pot of pâté is still only going to cost a few pounds," he says.

Patchwork also produces an ambient Italian Style Pâté which Carter says is ideal for the lunchbox. Crisps may not be gourmet fare as such, but suppliers are targeting the premium lunchbox market with 'posh' flavours. 

"People have said that they're a bit bored with the flavours available from more conventional crisp suppliers," says Nick Hurst, sales director of Burt's Chips. Rival upmarket crisp brand, Corkers, has just secured nationwide listings with Harvey Nichols and is soon to launch a 20g multipack product specifically designed for the lunchbox occasion. Suppliers have clearly recognised the potential of the gourmet lunchbox.

Focus On Lunchbox