Last month, there were mumblings that Spain might be saying "adios" to the siesta due to the Eurozone crisis that has been rocking Europe for the past several years. This mid-day break - often consisting of a multi-course meal followed by a snooze - is costly for both Spanish workers who no longer have money to spend on long meals, and for companies who cannot afford to have their workers being less productive in the afternoons. Now, in a time every Euro counts in the family budget, and every hour counts toward a company's bottom line, workers have taken to eating their lunches in the office with their co-workers or even (gasp!) eating lunch in front of their desks.
This behavioral shift in the Spanish culture means big opportunity for brands that previously have not had a huge presence in Spain. For the first time in their professional lives, Spanish workers will now need to figure out how to bring meals into the office, make meals in the office and enjoy meals - yup, you guessed it - in the office.
Food storage brands like Snapware, Tupperware and Ziploc can obviously provide answers to the first question, through storage solutions that enable workers to bring their meals from home to the office with ease. Sure, this seems like an obvious choice for Americans, who have been taking their lunches to work for years. But for Spaniards, "brown bagging" is a foreign concept with which they are quickly becoming acquainted. These brands can break the taboo with sub-brands or products that target the needs of that region. Perhaps a sleeker, more European design would appeal to Spanish sensibilities and tastes.
Americans have been bringing microwavable meals - everything from soups to lasagna - to the office for decades. But Spaniards, and Europeans in general, tend to look down upon anything frozen or processed. Part of this is due to their access to fresh fruits, vegetables and meats at their local markets, and part of it is because the more leisurely meal, often enjoyed with family, has a greater emphasis - and longer history - in those countries. But brands like Buitoni, Amy's Organic and Healthy Choice have been offering, "almost made fresh" prepared foods in the US for many years now, and could likely translate their offerings to meet the tastes and needs of Spanish audiences. Incorporating typically Iberian flavors like saffron and vinegar, meats such as Jamon Serrano, fish such as shrimp and merluza, beans such as chickpeas and starches like rice would all help win over Spanish audiences. And whereas Americans often eat a single item for lunch, meals introduced to Spanish audiences could consist of anywhere from three to five courses, to be more consistent with the restaurant lunches they previously enjoyed.
But just changing WHAT people eat won't fill the void left by the siesta. People who previously left the office for two hours or more - and often had a nap during that time - are going to need to discover HOW relax in the office. One possible way they can fill the void is by having longer meals in the office, and to make these meals actual events, like "pot-luck" lunches in which workers bring dishes that can be shared. Google does a great job of keeping people happy in the office at lunchtime, by offering several different cafes at its Googleplex headquarters, all of them rumored to be good, a well as lunchtime entertainment, lunch-and-learns and lectures. The technology giant also recently implemented a monthly "silent lunch" that helps employees rejuvenate during the day and which revives the corporate culture of innovation, community and doing the right thing." While Spaniards aren't exactly known for being a quiet culture, this communal breath during the day might be a welcome break.
And what about the nap that is the siesta's trademark? The new structure brings about a need for new innovations that will let workers take a snooze at their desks. As a result, companies may start having functional lounges, in which people can crash on a couch for a few minutes, or may even incorporate "nap pods" into their designs (not unlike the ones at the "Oasis," HuffPo-sponsored centers at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions). Not to mention, a shorter lunch break could mean that the other two meals of the day - breakfast and dinner - may get expanded, in turn presenting even more brand opportunities. So while a siesta-less Spain may leave a void in the hearts of Spaniards, this potential cultural shift presents a huge business opportunity that today's food brands can fulfill.