Back in the 1950s and 60s the Egg Marketing Board waged a big campaign to encourage Britain’s workers to kick off the day with an egg, and their slogan ‘Go to Work on an Egg’ suggested that they should do so before setting off, i.e. at home. This was an age when the morning would begin with a fry up prepared by a hard-working, long-suffering mother/housewife;, the Full English, plenty of toast and jam or marmalade, a pot or two of hot, strong, milky tea or at the very least a bowl of cornflakes, weetabix or warming porridge.
Fast forward half a century and a survey conducted by Hunt4Staff reveals a very different approach to beginning the working day.
Where do we eat our breakfast? My study revelled that a majority (56%) of workers actually eat their breakfast in the workplace, with the remainder eating at home. No-one claimed to eat out. This shows a cultural difference, for had we taken a straw poll of US or Australian workers we would have found that a significant percentage would breakfast in a favourite diner, coffee shop, bar or cafe. Whilst the fast food restaurant has dominated the High Street over here in the past four decades, just as the formica tabled cafe has declined, none of the major brands have captured the feel, or delivered the product, of a typical US diner.
Now, what are we eating for breakfast? My study asked specifically what do you eat on a work day (as opposed to your favourite holiday or weekend choice). For starters, nobody owned up to having an egg. In fact porridge, toast or a fruit pancake were the only items to require cooking. Most popular was a health-conscious fruit smoothy and arguably our national food; toast (both 22%).
What time do we eat Breakfast? Surprisingly, our survey found no-one who eats their breakfast between 7.30 and 8.30am. Intuition tells us that this should be prime time for the nation to be eating. In fact, 38% take theirs before 7.30am, 61.5% after 8.30, more than half of whom (53%) take theirs after 9am, one particular person taking theirs as late as 11am.
Tea or Coffee? Perhaps my most shocking finding is that a staggering 67% prefer coffee to a mug of delicious strong tea. Only 28% of workers surveyed prefer what was once our national drink. 5% claimed to have both or neither.
What factors affect the results? Key factors would be type of work. Our poll was conducted entirely upon office-based workers. It is quite likely that the results would differ if we’d asked outdoor workers, tradespeople (perhaps more inclined to a heartier feast), or drivers. Age too, could be a factor. An older demographic may show a liking for tea over coffee. A younger group may prefer to buy fast food en route to work. Fifty years ago, whilst some factories, larger offices and bus depots may have had works canteens where a cheap Full English would be available, and manual labourers most would have a favourite greasy caff, most would have eaten at home. A breakfast prepared by mum, as she marshalls kids to school and husband to work juggling toast, frying pan and the tea pot. The family breakfast table was a staple setting for films and tv comedies or dramas. Do families still sit around a breakfast table? Are both parents now getting ready for work? Are more people living alone? All of these factors have affected our attitude to what, when, how and where we eat breakfast on a working day.
Thus ends the first part of our Working Breakfast Survey. Part two will reveal our favourite breakfast items. Part three will look at the science behind breakfast and reveal what we should be eating.