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CHICAGO -- Most U.S. consumers stick to the traditional three-meals-per-day routine, but the meals themselves have changed, according to "Snacking in America 2012," a new food market research report from The NPD Group. Although consumers are less likely to skip mealtimes than they were five years ago, the meals can be considered mini-meals, during which fewer items are consumed. Consumers are also snacking more between meals.
The report examines both long-term attitudes and behaviors about snacking and snack selection drivers, and finds that snack occasions fill the gaps between traditional main meals. Morning includes multiple eating occasions, and one out of every five eating occasions overall is a snack. Fifty-three percent of Americans snack two to three times per day.
Additionally, the average American consumes 4.1 food and beverage items at dinner today, down from 5.3 items in 1985. Dinner is also the only meal during which a majority of the meal occasions are considered by consumers to be a full or complete meal, according to the report.
"Our frequent snacking is a result of our hectic lifestyles, need for convenience, increasing desire to eat healthier foods, and simply to enjoy what we eat," said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. "There is, however, a complexity to snacking behaviors based on demographics, needs 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."