A Fresh Look at How We Eat

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A Fresh Look at How We Eat


Despite the diversity and intensity of competition, Americans’ equally diverse mealtime habits are feeding food industry players with ample opportunities to target a wide range of consumers in a nation that remains united on three inalienable food principles: health, convenience and variety.

Indeed, findings from a just-released “Retail and Foodservice Opportunities in When and Where America Eats” report by Packaged Facts further identifies age as the single most important influencer on variations and interpretation the trio of food principles noted above.

Adults under 45 years old claim they have busier lifestyles than Baby Boomers and Seniors, making snacking and the consumption of fast food far more common due to the portability and convenience of these foods. Meanwhile, snacking is so integral to the lifestyle of Millennials (adults under age 30), that the Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts considers them a driving force that will propel the U.S. snack market to sales of $77 billion by 2015.

The repercussion of this haste is a greater tendency for younger adults to have either poor eating habits or blatantly unhealthy diets as they are more likely to feel they are too busy to take care of themselves as they should. Between Millennials and Gen Xers (adults age 30-44), the latter segment is far more conscientious about their mealtime habits, largely because Gen Xers are more likely to be parents.

Because of this, Gen Xers are largely advocates of the thunderous -- if financially necessary -- return of the home-cooked meal that has swept the nation since the onset of the recession. Meals at home -- even meals in the form of ready meals or frozen foods -- give Gen Xer parents the opportunity to better control the nutritional health of their children while spending bonding time with their families.

Boomers and Seniors, though, are much more conscientious eaters who prefer to know the nutritional value of and ingredients in their foods. They are also more willing to pay extra money for quality goods than younger adults. Though they rarely snack, when older Americans do indulge, they typically choose healthier snacks. Meals at home are also far more common for older Americans. Baby Boomers are fond of cooking, while Seniors favor easy to prepare meals. Either way, their avoidance of fast food and dining on-the-go is closely tied to their penchant for counting calories and avoiding artificial ingredients and additives.

Older Americans also tend to dine early, especially Seniors who are active eaters from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both Boomers and Seniors tend to eat meals alone more than younger adults, though solo eating overall is on the uptick nationwide. Seniors, more so than Boomers, have a strong tendency to eat socially during the early morning and early evening hours.

Both Millennials and Gen Xers are frequent indulgers in what has been colloquially dubbed the “fourthmeal” -- a dining occasion that is an expansion of the midnight snack and is typically eaten outside the home and with at least one other person.

In the report, Packaged Facts defines fourthmeal dining as occurring between 10:00 pm - 5:59 am. When Millennials eat, especially late, they are tremendously social. This social tendency is inherently linked to the college crowd that comprises a portion of the cohort and is an extension of Millennials' penchant for social networking.

For more info on this and other Packaged Facts insights, visit packagedfacts.blogspot.com/