When I was very young, my father read a great deal of Winnie the Pooh to me. He was, in my oldest sister’s words, “locally famous” for his mastery of oeuvre. He read it with a soft, elegant, rhythmic style. One of the words he’d lovingly pronounce was “elevenses“…something to eat in late morning just to tide a person (or bear) over until lunch time. In Pooh’s “culture” it was one of the key dayparts, distinct from a snack (which I recall being “a little something”). So, for Pooh there were four dayparts and snacks in between.
When we were building the online CREST foodservice market research questionnaire for our five European countries we needed to incorporate a distinct “aperitivo” daypart in Spain and Italy (but, curiously, not “elevenses”). The Spanish one was before lunch and the Italian before dinner. When we were building our questionnaire for CREST Mexico, we used five distinct dayparts. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with almuerzo in late morning and merienda in late afternoon or early evening.
Plus, it’s not just the number of meals and snacks that can vary. There’s always the climate. I lived in Israel for six months long after I was very, very young. The meal schedule on the kibbutz was driven by the fact that it was too hot to work in the middle of the day. The fact that I was there during the coldest winter in 40 years did nothing to alter the schedule. So, we’d go straight to our work station in the dark and have tea and “biscuits” to wake up. After a couple of hours we’d be sent up to the dining hall to grab a quick breakfast, not quite elevenses, before we’d come back and finish off the morning shift at around 1. Lunch was the big meal of the day and would be followed by a kind of siesta as we waited out the (theoretical for me) heat of the day. We’d finish with another four hours at our job and go to dinner some time after 7 when (again, theoretically) the day was cool enough to relax. I recall Israeli vodka and Israeli cigarettes (Noblesse?), which were part of our pay, for an hour prior to dinner.
But now I’m way off topic. The point is that people eat in different rhythms around the world.
NPD’s Food and Beverage Services group, based in NPD’s Chicago office, has just published an excellent report, A Day in the Life: Food and Beverage Habits in Brazil, Russia, Mexico, India and China. It is an excellent one time overview of contrasting food and beverage habits in these key global growth markets. The report, which covers many specifics to address patterns of consumption and roles and customs in each country, has a lovely graphic depicting the key meal times by country.
In India, we see the early snack followed by a later breakfast the way I experienced it in Israel. Four countries have a snack time around 10. Aside from Mexico, this is the habit for the early breakfast/lunch at noon countries. The Mexican morning snack, almuerzo, has to hold them until comida at 2 in the afternoon.
You have to love how similar the US and China are. The best part is that they are the only countries where people report sitting down to dinner at 6 p.m. People in the other countries, fortified by snacks in the late afternoon and early evening, manage to hold off until after 7. It seems so civil and grown up.
This is really just one tiny element of the report. For more details click on the report reference above. And, a good elevenses to you.