Understand the US lunch consumer in granular detail with this report. Use Mintel’s market research to become more informed and tackle challenges in your industry. This report examines how lunch weighs up against breakfast, the most sought-after lunch foods, key motivators for eating lunch among consumers, and opportunities for food brands to capitalize on trends found. Read on to discover our insights.

Market Overview

Most hold the persisting belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And, as age increases, so does the perceived importance of breakfast as “more important” than lunch. This is interesting because as age decreases, US adults begin to see more value in lunch. Consumers are also more likely to eat lunch on a daily basis, and those aged 19-34 are especially likely to skip breakfast and make a regular habit of lunch. These factors, among others, show that lunch is poised to chip away at breakfast’s lead.

Lunch Consumer Trends

Sandwiches and wraps continue to be the most sought-after lunchtime foods. This reflects an overarching desire for simplicity and convenience in consumers’ lunch routines. Besides sandwiches, for the lunch consumer, foods during weekdays skew healthier options, while the weekend is a time to opt for more hearty choices like pizza.

Mintel’s exclusive research in this report finds that energy and health are key motivators for lunch among consumers, consistent with the perception of lunch as a time to refuel or recharge. But what about to stop and take five? Half of lunch eaters state that lunch is a time to take a personal break or relaxation period. This serves as a reminder to marketers that the emotional context of lunchtime as a meal is at least as important as the physiological benefits.

  • Lunch consumer foods: 43% eat salads on weekdays versus 36% on weekends, while more eat pizza or beef/pork entrees on weekends.
  • Lunch consumer trends: 40% and 41% state healthfulness and energy as motivators to eat lunch.

Opportunities for Retailers and Marketers

Currently, almost half of lunch eaters say they eat lunch that was prepared previously. There is an opportunity here for retailers and food brands to increase baskets and market share by encouraging shoppers to be more purposeful about their leftover eating habits. Following the example of turkey and stuffing sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving, marketers and retailers can play into this tendency with recipes and ideas for repurposing dinner entrees into more lunch-friendly meals.

While older adults prioritize narrowly around category must-haves, grocery retailers have a great opportunity to capitalize on young adults’ diverse motivations and interests when it comes to lunch. From energy, indulgence, and gathering with friends, to savory, comforting, and energizing experiences, retailers can create promotions and merchandising to cater to the different moods that define lunch for younger adults.

Find a comprehensive breakdown of consumer lunch trends and opportunities alongside expert analysis in the full report. Or, check out our extensive food market research to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Quickly Understand

  • Lunch locations and choices during the week and on weekends.
  • Key attributes that guide lunch eaters’ choices.
  • Motivations for eating lunch.
  • Consumer attitudes toward lunch and consumer behavior.

Covered in this Report

While the research in this report touches on restaurants and foodservice, the main focus is on lunch items purchased or prepared for home consumption. The report covers a number of product launches and brands, such as those that mention “lunch” in branding, and lunch products with plant-based and sustainability claims.

Expert Analysis from a Food and Retail Specialist

This report, written by John Owen, a leading analyst in the food and retail sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current consumer lunch trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The key to breaking consumers out of their lunch routines revolves around more than just the food. Marketers have an opportunity to tap into the deeper emotions and motivations that drive the meal.

John Owen, Associate Director, Food and Retail
John Owen
Associate Director – Food and Retail

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top Takeaways
    • Consumer trends
    • Lunch starts at home
      • Figure 1: Lunch sources, 2022
    • Sandwiches remain front and center at lunchtime
      • Figure 2: Lunch foods, 2022
    • Beyond the food: lunch offers a break in the action
      • Figure 3: Lunch motivations, 2022
    • For most, lunch is a routine
      • Figure 4: Attitudes and behaviors toward lunch – Routine, 2022
    • Opportunities
    • Make planning for leftovers a little easier
    • Cater to young lunch eaters’ diverse priorities
    • Make lunch the first step toward healthier eating
  3. Market Factors

    • Consumers aspire to lose weight, eat nutritious and whole foods
      • Figure 5: Food and drink aspirations for 2022
    • Majority of workers do some work from home
      • Figure 6: Work expectations for 2022
    • Breakfast still deemed the most important meal, but lunch is gaining
      • Figure 7: Meal statements – Any agree, 2020
      • Figure 8: Meal and snack daypart frequency – Every day, by age, 2022
  4. Competitive Strategies and Market Opportunities

    • Few new food and drink product launches call out lunch specifically
      • Figure 9: Incidence of specific meals mentioned in food launches, 2016-2022
      • Figure 10: Select product launches featuring “lunch” in the product name or package copy, 2022
    • Taking ownership of lunch, one motivation at a time
    • Convenience and clean labels are expectations
      • Figure 11: Select packaging claims on new products in lunch-related categories* – Convenience and clean label, 2017-22
    • Rise in plant-based claims plays to interest in health, sustainability
      • Figure 12: Select packaging claims on new products in lunch-related categories* – Ethical/environmental, health/nutrition, vegetarian/vegan, 2017-22
      • Figure 13: Select Lunch-oriented product launches with plant based claim, 2022
      • Figure 14: Select Lunch-oriented product launches with sustainability claims, 2022
  5. The Lunch Consumer – Fast Facts

    • Lunch starts at home
    • Opportunity to encourage planning for leftovers
    • Sandwiches are lunchtime standard, but young consumers opt for variety
    • Young lunch eaters’ diverse priorities create opportunities
    • It’s not just about the food; lunch offers a break in the action
  6. Lunch Locations

    • Most eat lunch at home
      • Figure 15: Lunch locations, 2022
    • Younger adults more likely to eat lunch away from home
      • Figure 16: Lunch locations, by age, 2022
    • Whether you work, and where, impacts lunch location
      • Figure 17: Lunch locations, by work location, 2022
  7. Lunch Sources

    • Almost half of lunch eaters turn to leftovers
      • Figure 18: Lunch sources, 2022
    • Home-based workers especially likely to forgo foodservice for lunch
      • Figure 19: Lunch sources, by work location, 2022
  8. What’s for Lunch?

    • Sandwiches remain front and center at lunchtime
      • Figure 20: Lunch foods, 2022
    • Beyond sandwiches: younger lunch eaters open to greater variety
      • Figure 21: Weekday lunch foods, by age, 2022
  9. Lunch Attribute Importance

    • Flavorful tops long list of must-have lunch attributes
      • Figure 22: Lunch attribute importance, 2022
    • Young lunch eaters’ diverse priorities create opportunities for engagement
      • Figure 23: Lunch attribute importance, by age, 2022
  10. Lunch Motivations

    • It’s not just about the food; lunch offers a break in the action
      • Figure 24: Lunch motivations, 2022
    • Especially for young adults, lunchtime can serve a variety of needs
      • Figure 25: Lunch motivations, by age, 2022
  11. Lunch Attitudes and Behaviors

    • Lunch choices are largely a matter of routine
      • Figure 26: Attitudes and behaviors toward lunch – Routine, by age, 2022
    • Lunch at home can be a first step toward healthier eating
      • Figure 27: Attitudes and behaviors toward lunch – Health, 2022
    • Home lunches can serve as an inflation fighter
      • Figure 28: Attitudes and behaviors toward lunch – Changing lunch routine to save money, by personal financial situation, 2022
  12. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

About the report

This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.


Mintel provides a range of market information, frequently through the category level, including market size and forecasting, complete with market drivers that illustrate the forces that shape a category or market.


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