Bord Bia examines what Ireland ate for dinner last night

February 5th, 2020: Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, has today released the results of an in-depth national study into the evening meal consumption habits of today. Carried out in partnership with Red C Research, this unique study was designed to better understand the changing dynamics of people’s evening mealtime habits, including the gap between what we say and what we do, and ultimately identify opportunities for the Irish food, drink and horticulture sectors.

The study involved a nationally representative online survey of over 1,000 Irish consumers who charted their evening eating habits, resulting in a sample of 5,925 adult and 1,841 child evening meals collected over seven consecutive days. The research captures consumer intentions to live more healthily and sustainably versus their daily choices when it comes to evening meals.

Meat & two veg most popular adult meal type

Key findings of the study include:

  • Classic ‘meat and two veg’ is the number one evening meal type eaten by adults in 2019, accounting for 11% of all adult evening meals across the 7 days. Chicken dishes and pasta with sauce meals, such as Spaghetti Bolognese, were in 2nd and 3rd spot at 10%.
  • Pasta with sauce meals, such as Spaghetti Bolognese, was the number one meal type eaten by children, accounting for 14% of all evening meals.
  • Red meat is the most popular meat consumed in Irish households, with 29% of all adult meals including red meat, although chicken follows closely behind at 21%.
  • Incidence of fish within all meals is at 7%. However, this increases to 11% on Fridays demonstrating it is still a popular evening meal choice.
  • Dairy is a key part of evening meals among Irish consumers, with 17% of all meals containing cheese.

Good intentions prevail

Health and wellness considerations are driving consumer behaviour, with over 80% of people placing a high level of importance on eating a balanced diet. 4 in 10 adults cite awareness of the food they eat and the impact it can have on physical and mental wellness as having a great deal of influence on evening meal choice. Ethical considerations are also influencing consumer behaviour, as almost 3 in 10 people feel making choices that are more positive for the environment has a great deal of influence on evening meals.

While just over 2 in 10 (23%) people claim to have prepared more vegan meals at home in the last 12 months, the reality is that just 1% of evening meals prepared over the last 7 days were vegan dishes. Commenting on the growing influence of health and wellness trends on dietary choices, Bord Bia Consumer Insight Specialist, Grace Binchy said; “When it comes to evening meals, this comprehensive study captures a clear intent to make healthy and socially responsible food choices and people believe they are regularly doing so. However, as a growing ‘time poor’ nation, life gets in the way. There is a tendency for people to remember the choices they make as being better than they were and their original intention is not always reflected in their actions.”


Busyness is the New Norm

Busier lives and seeking convenience solutions are influencing Irish evening mealtime habits. Smaller meals and snacks are changing evening meal dynamics, with 17% of all evening meals no longer the main meal of the day. There has been a 12% decline in regular scratch cooking among Irish adults, from just over 4 in 10 adults in 2011 to 3 in 10 in 2019.

The study found that there is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ approach to evening meals, with a significant rise in the number of households preparing different meals for different people since 2011. In keeping with the fracturing of the traditional evening meal occasion, 1 in 10 evening meals are now eaten in different rooms and more than 7 in 10 meals involve a device being active (e.g. a TV, Smartphone, or tablet). Takeaways and home deliveries account for almost 1 in 10 (9%) of all evening meals eaten over the course of a week, rising to 15% on a Friday or Saturday. A further 11% of evening meals are eaten out of the home.

According to Grace Binchy, “As our lives grow increasingly busier, the study captures a move away from the traditional evening meal as we know it. With nearly half of adults claiming to enjoy cooking, but only when there is enough time available to do so, convenience emerged as an extremely important consideration when choosing what to eat in the evening”.


Opportunities around marketing messages exist in addressing the converging importance of convenience, nutrition and climate for Irish consumers. Commenting on the relevance of the study, Grace Binchy said; “Over the past decade Ireland has experienced huge social, economic and technological changes which have significantly impacted consumer attitudes. This research will help the food and drink industry to look forward and make well informed business decisions that serve customers’ needs better. Manufacturers should consider how they can deliver healthy products while creating convenience in people’s lives and addressing their changing demands around sustainability.”


Top 10 adult meal types:

  1. Meat & Two Vegetables
  2. Chicken Dish (for example Roast Chicken)
  3. Pasta with Sauce (for example Spaghetti Bolognese)
  4. Italian Foods (for example Pizza & Lasagne)
  5. Diner Style Favourites (for example Burger or Steak & Chips)
  6. Fish Dish (for example Fish Bake or Fish & Chips)
  7. Light Meal (for example Toasted Sandwich or Beans on Toast)
  8. Chinese / Oriental meal
  9. Stew or Casserole
  10. Indian Dish (for example Chicken Tikka Marsala, Korma, Curry)


Top 10 children’s meal types:

  1. Pasta with Sauce (for example Spaghetti Bolognaise)
  2. Chicken Dish (for example Roast Chicken)
  3. Meat & Two Vegetables
  4. Italian Foods (for example Pizza & Lasagne)
  5. Diner-Style Favourites (for example Burger or Steak & Chips)
  6. Stew or Casserole
  7. Fish Dish (for example a Fish Bake or Fish & Chips)
  8. Chinese / Oriental Meal
  9. Indian Dish (for example Chicken Tikka Marsala, Korma, Curry)
  10. Light Meal (for example Toasted Sandwich or Beans on Toast)

Additional facts uncovered by the study:

  • Potatoes are at the heart of many evening meals in Ireland (28%), with consumption increasing significantly for over 45s.
  • 1 in 10 evening meals contain eggs, with consumption particularly high amongst under 35’s, highlighting their desire for protein and preference for lighter meals.
  • Almost 3 in 10 (28%) of all evening meals include bread.
  • Over three quarters of grocery shoppers use Irish produce wherever possible, with the perception that it is worth paying more significantly higher (up 10%) than 2011.
  • There has been an 8% decline in dessert incidence with evening meals for adults since 2011, to 16% in 2019. Over 2 in 10 (21%) of children’s evening meals include a dessert, but this has fallen 10% since 2011.
  • Tap water is the most common drink accompaniment for both adult (36%) and children’s (29%) evening meals.
  • For adults, both milk and wine are consumed less than they were in 2011, while for children milk consumption with evening meals has fallen by 11% since 2011.
  • Chinese food is the most popular takeaway choice in Ireland, while pizza is the most popular home delivery choice.
  • Almost 7 in 10 (67%) of all takeaway and delivery food orders take place online.