U.S. consumers are actually less likely to skip breakfast, lunch and dinner meals today than they were five years ago -- but the number of items consumed per meal has declined as snacking frequency has increased, according to a new report from The NPD Group.
Today, the average American eats 4.1 food and beverage items at dinner, versus 5.3 items in 1985, according to “Snacking in America 2012.”
Furthermore, dinner is the only standard meal in which a majority of the meal occasions are considered by consumers to be a full or complete meal. (Consumers now often describe their breakfast, lunch and even dinner meals as “mini-meals.”)
Snacking is filling the gaps between traditional main meals. Today, 20% or one out of every five in- and away-from home eating occasions in the U.S. is a snack. In comparison, breakfast accounts for 28% of eating occasions, dinner for 27% and lunch for 25%. (Those percentages do not include skipped meals.)
More than half of Americans (53%) are snacking two or three times a day. Many, for example, report multiple eating occasions during the morning.
“Frequent snacking is a result of our hectic lifestyles, need for convenience, and increasing desires to eat healthier foods, as well as simply to enjoy what we eat,” says NPD food and beverage industry analyst Darren Seifer.
He adds, however, that since snacking behaviors are influenced by demographics, need states and attitudes, food manufacturers and retailers “will need to align their business strategies with the appropriate consumer behaviors in order to capitalize on consumers’ penchant for snacking. “