Two sets of questionnaires inspired from the 2009 and 2010 surveys, called the FOOD barometers, have been launched every year since 2012 in order to monitor the evolution of the habits and opinions of both target groups (employees and restaurants) about balanced nutrition.
In 2016, 68% of Belgian employees had lunch on a daily basis, and this figure has remained quite constant over the years. It is close to the European average, which was of 71% in 2016.
Most of them (54%) usually had home-made food. We notice an increase in the consumption of home-made food and a decrease in the consumption of sandwiches over the years.
When choosing a restaurant, in 2016, Belgian workers considered important or very important practical criteria linked to working life constraints such as a quick service (84%) and the location of the restaurant, which had to be close to their workplace (83%). The dishes served had to be affordable (82%), the environment of the restaurant had to be pleasant (76%) and the restaurant had to serve locally produced/seasonal food (64%). These figures have remained quite constant over the years.
In 2016, Belgian workers also gave a real importance to the balance of their dish when choosing a restaurant as 73% considered important or very important that the restaurant proposed meals of good nutritional quality. This figure is close to the European average in 2016, which was 77%. This figure has remained quite constant over the 5 years.
In 2016, almost half of Belgian employees (47%) declared that the balance of the dish affected their decision on what to have at lunch. This criterion was the third most chosen one and came right after what they wanted at the present time (71%) and the price of the meal (53%).
The share of Belgian employees declaring that the balance of the dish affected their decision-making on what to have at lunch had never been as high as in 2016, therefore showing an increasing interest for balanced nutrition among them.
In 2016, 46% of Belgian restaurants declared that they were not interested in balanced nutrition. Belgium is where restaurants showed the fewest interest in learning more about balanced nutrition among the FOOD programme countries. However, Belgian restaurants used to demonstrate more interest before, therefore showing a trend towards more skepticism and less interest about healthy cooking among them.
In 2016, 17% of Belgian restaurants noticed an increased demand for balanced/healthy meals. It is lower than the European average (36%). There used to be a higher share of restaurants noticing an increased demand for balanced/healthy meals in 2012 and 2014. This result shows that Belgian restaurants are not well aware of this rising demand for healthy meals that is however noticed in the employees’ side.
In 2016, restaurants in Belgium had stronger prejudices about balanced nutrition than in other FOOD programme countries as a lower share of them disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statements that preparing healthy meals was more expensive (14%), that it took more time to cook healthy/balanced meals (24%) and that preparing healthy meals was more difficult (32%).
Prejudices about cooking healthy meals have reinforced in 2016 in comparison with the previous years, particularly with 2014, as we notice a clear drop in the share of restaurants disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the negative previous statements.
There is a misconnection between the Offer and the Demand sides for healthy food in Belgium. Belgian employees give a greater and greater importance to healthy eating whereas Belgian restaurants are not aware of this increasing demand. Plus, Belgian restaurants have strong prejudices about balanced nutrition and have a low interest in learning more about it in comparison with European averages, and these trends have both recently reinforced.