How the habits of Italians at the table have changed – Part 1

After World War II, family lunch and dinner were collective rituals that were consumed daily in Italian kitchens and dining rooms. Typically the man of the house, the head of the family, had a job that took him out of the home for a good part of the day, while reserving time for him to go home and have lunch with his family. Even dinner, a more frugal meal than lunch, had its own defined temporal space, before the children went to bed, leaving parents time to follow the first television programs.

Today the habits of Italians at the table have radically changed and the percentage of people who dine at home has drastically decreased year after year. If in 1998 the percentage of people who usually dine at home was 78% in 2018, just 20 years later, it has dropped by 6 percentage points, despite the sharp increase in retired people. The propensity of Italians to cook has also dropped substantially with just one in three Italians declaring that they have time to cook for lunch and with half of the subjects interviewed not having the time to cook either for lunch or dinner. Time is the number one enemy of the kitchen with the vast majority of Italians interviewed declaring that they do not take more than half an hour a day to eat.

In contrast to this new Italian trend, there was a significant increase in per capita spending on catering. A restaurant that however has moved away from the classic Italian gastronomy in favor of establishments that allow you to eat very quickly foods that are standardized throughout the national and European territory: the so-called fast food. With fast food we do not only mean the classic globalized chain of burgers and fries but all those activities that allow you to eat quickly and cheaply. This category includes the classic cooked ham and fontina toast purchased in the bar under the office or the pre-packaged sandwiches of the automatic machines present in schools, universities and companies. All these foods in addition to having in common the characteristic of speed (fast, in fact) are united by a reduced price. The extremely low price is possible thanks to standardized processes close to the “assembly line” and thanks to the use of low quality raw materials with a very low nutritional value. The bar toast, for example, is not nutritionally balanced (it lacks fiber, vitamins and mineral salts) and is made up of low quality raw materials to have an apparently convenient price when compared to a complete, balanced meal with a full nutritional value. In recent years, fast food has undergone a new surge in consumption thanks to the delivery service which, in large Italian cities, has generated a significant change in the consumption of Italians. All you need to do is access one of the online food delivery platforms to have hundreds of restaurants at your fingertips. Surely not all of them are fast food but, seeing is believing, at the top of the list and always with the most advantageous prices are the world fast food chains. But the offer of fast meals has seen precisely these chains break free, generating a subset of products that have found a new definition: that of junk meals. The expression “junk food” – junk food – has begun in recent years to define a sub-category of fast food, because the predominant feature in this sub-category of food is no longer the mere fact of being as quick to prepare as that of having a very low nutritional value thanks to the high presence of saturated fats and added sugars.

People who were looking for a quick food to eat were therefore forced to find alternatives that were equally fast, possibly cheap, but which were healthy and consumable daily. In the first quarter of 2019, the propensity of Italians to consume ready meals increased by 13% compared to the first quarter of the previous year. This growing demand has been met by many companies that have offered consumers various “immediately ready” meals in multiple versions. Immediately ready salads have begun to find a place on the shelves of large-scale distribution and the offer of soups or pasta dishes ready in a few moments has multiplied thanks to the microwave ovens now present in the coffee rooms of many offices. The energy bars, born as supplements in the diets of athletes, were taken as if they were a real alternative meal (even if they are not really!). The bars are not enough for a person’s daily caloric needs, they are nutritionally incomplete and have an excess of simple sugars. Then there are traditional replacement meals: those products that have the declared purpose of being an alternative to a meal with slimming purposes. All these “alternative meals” have a common flaw: they can only be an occasional alternative. They are nutritionally incomplete. In the case of traditional replacement meals (different from “Complete Food”), the label even indicates to consult a doctor in case you intend to use the products for an extended period of time. Traditional replacement meals, in addition to not providing enough energy to our body, are rich in added sugars, and also generate glycemic peaks, drowsiness and fatigue after use.

Our journey on the tables of Italians continues next week with the latest trends in terms of ready meals, the so-called “Complete Food”. However, we want to give you a preview and concerns Bivo. Bivo is a latest generation replacement meal, the only Italian Complete Food, designed to provide your body with all the energy you need, in addition to all the main vitamins and minerals. To receive 10% discount on your first purchase and stay informed about Bivo’s developments, subscribe to the newsletter below

New call-to-action