Spanish snacking more

Related tags Nutrition Food Us Spain

Spain might well have a culinary heritage to rival that of France,
but like it trans-Pyrenean neighbour, consumption patterns have
been changing over the last few years, with more hectic lifestyles
(even in the land of the siesta) and increased disposable incomes
leading to Spaniards spending more time eating out and less time at
home preparing food.

A survey of Spanish eating habits presented at a conference organised by retail association AECOC last month showed that Spanish consumers are increasingly unwilling to 'waste' their precious free time on preparing meals - to the benefit of ready meal manufacturers and restaurants.

The survey, carried out by the University of Barcelona, showed that as well as spending more time eating out, Spanish consumers are also increasing the number of snacking occasions each day.

On average, Spanish consumers eat 4.2 times a day (snacks or meals), still low compared to neighbouring France (5.3 times) and well behind US consumers, who eat a staggering 20 times a day on average.

The US, and increasingly, the UK, have the worst reputations when it comes to snacking in front of the TV, but the Spaniards are also becoming couch potatoes, with 11 per cent of all meal occasions taking place in front of the box - a figure which also dictates what kind of food is eaten.

The university's study showed that while 82 per cent of Spanish consumers said that health was the most important factor when it came to choosing what to eat, the figures in fact show that convenience and location are in fact a greater influence on what Spaniards eat, and when.

One finding of particular interest was the fact that 80 per cent of Spanish adults admitted that they were strongly influenced by their children when it came to food shopping - a revelation that will be read with interests by campaigners in the UK pushing for a ban on advertising 'unhealthy' foods to children.

Some 70 per cent of the children questioned by the university's researchers said they were allowed to choose products such as yoghurts or biscuits. Mothers, on the other hand, are the sole guardians of their family's nutritional health - some 69 per cent of those questioned said they tried to buy food which contributed to the nutritional intake of their children.

But while mothers still have their offspring's health at heart, few would go as far as buying them a functional food product. Most Spaniards, it seems, prefer to trust to more 'natural' products such as fruit and vegetables for their healthy diet. While functional foods are not exactly mistrusted, most consumers believe that they are only beneficial in the long term, the university's survey showed.

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