‘Deskfast’: terrible name, not such a terrible idea

Eating breakfast at your desk? Photograph: Marcus Clackson/Getty Images

A piece for Comment is Free

Pity the poor cereal manufacturers. After decades of growth, with Britons crunching and sucking their way through bowl after bowl of heavily processed grain made palatable by salt and sugar and afforded spurious claims of nutrition by “fortifying” vitamins, something has changed. Sales of Crunchy Nut are down 15% by volume in the last year alone, Special K by almost 10%. Even Corn Flakes have suffered a drop.

Instead, people are apparently buying yoghurt drinks, cereal bars, pastries and “breakfast biscuits”, ingesting these in front of computer screens in what one execrable specimen of humanity has shudderingly termed a “deskfast” (the term is contradictory as well as stupid: a “deskfast” would of course mean not eating at one’s desk). Nonetheless, opines a spokesman from one cereal manufacturer: “The culture of eating breakfast at the desk is on the increase. Recession always leads to longer office hours, so with workers spending more time at their desk, products need to be fast.”

There are two possible factors at play here. One is the explanation offered by the cereal industry: that so shackled are we to our precariously held jobs, none of us have time to tinkle some flakes into a bowl and slosh a bit of milk on them (this thesis is somewhat undermined by the fact that porridge sales have increased over the same period: even speedy microwave porridge takes longer to prepare than a bowl of Coco Pops). The second explanation – and the one I prefer – is that more people are realising what overpriced, unhealthy junk most breakfast cereals are.

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