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:The brown-bagged lunch is becoming an increasingly popular workplace accessory these days, according to a new study from market research firm the NPD Group. Indeed, weekday lunches toted from home reached a new high in 2007 among adults 18 and older, 8.5 billion of which carried brown-bag lunches last year. More than half of these lunches are consumed at the workplace, and most often at the eater's desk or workstation.
Among the findings revealed in NPD's new report - "What's in the Bag and Why Is It in There?" -- the majority of consumers carry their lunch from home more often due to financial reasons, mostly because it's cheaper than other options. Health and nutrition concerns ranked second as a reason to brown-bag, followed by convenience, taste, diet, quality, and environmental concerns. Among consumers who typically brown-bag, nearly half said they're doing so more often.
"Consumers are definitely in a cost-cutting mode, and brown-bagging saves them money," noted NPD v.p. Harry Balzer. "Making lunch at home and putting it in a bag also enables them to have full control over what goes into the bag, as many are concerned about eating better."
The NPD study finds that adult males carry more brown-bagged lunches than others, yet quite often females are the preparers. Brown-bagging is more common among 35- to 54-year-olds, white-collar consumers and professionals, as well as more affluent consumers.
What goes in the brown bags varies, but it typically consists of fruit, chips, and some type of sandwich. Cookies replace the chips in kids' lunches, a poultry sandwich replaces chips for men, and women are more inclined to opt for healthier choices like yogurt and veggies. Among the total population, peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches are the most popular sandwich type, and carbonated soft drinks are the dominant beverage choice.
"We're seeing yogurt and frozen entrees gaining in popularity in carried lunches, and lunchmeat sandwiches, chips, or ham sandwiches declining," says Arnie Schwartz, who heads up NPD's food and beverage unit. "Over the last several years, leftovers are increasingly a part of brown-bagged lunches."
Further, the report contends brown-bagging is a planned behavior, with nearly half of consumers deciding they want to brown-bag the day before or earlier, with another two out of three brown-bagged lunches prepared the morning of the same day.
"Brown-bagging is an extension of Americans now preparing and eating the majority of their meals at home," observed Balzer. "Home is not only where the heart is, it's where the food is, too."