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    Keeping Up With the Evolution of Eating

    Consumers are increasingly open to eating prepared food at home.

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The eating habits of today's U.S. consumers are in a state of flux as they explore new ways of preparation and display different practices by generation, according to Acosta Sales & Marketing's new report, The Evolution of Eating. The research explores changes in eating habits over the years and offers guidance on how the food industry can best respond.

    "The way our society views food has come a long way since the TV dinner heyday of the 1950s. From sharing recipes and photos of food on social media to a widespread fixation on healthy food and fads, we have seen a seismic shift in consumers' attitudes toward food," stated Acosta Senior Vice President Colin Stewart. "Eating has evolved right along with society, and consumer brands and retailers must consider the dynamics, demands and preferences of today's modern family to deliver successful food and meal solutions."

    Although 90 percent of surveyed shoppers indicated they prefer to eat at home, this includes bringing home prepared food, having food delivered and combining prepared products with cooked-from-scratch dishes. The primary motivators for eating at home are comfort, convenience and cost.

    Millennials, a key demographic group for the convenience store industry, reports that they make meals at home at a slightly higher rate than total U.S. diners (48 percent compared to 46 percent). However, more Millennials report eating prepared foods from a c-store (18 percent) than do total U.S. diners (9 percent), and 17 percent of Millennials eat prepared food in the c-store dining area itself compared to just 8 percent of total U.S. diners.

    Snacking is also an important part of daily eating habits, with 26 percent of all U.S. diners eating a snack two or three times per day.

    Generationally, Millennials and members of Generation X said they eat at least five times a day, and Millennials enjoy cooking the most. Members of Generation X do the most dinner planning, while Baby Boomers do the most lunch planning.

    When it comes to nutrition, consumers are growing increasingly educated about the tie between diet and wellness, and are transforming their shopping and eating behaviors accordingly. More than half of shoppers report trying to eat more fruits and vegetables in the past year, and 61 percent rank reading food labels as very important to their health and wellness concerns when they go grocery shopping.

    The Acosta report also breaks cooking profiles into descriptive groups, including:

    • The nourisher: Confident cooks who value great taste.
    • The diet planner: Prefers healthy options and better foods.
    • The tired provider: Prefers easy-to-cook meals with great taste.
    • The sustainer: Most often eating alone and prefers quick, easy-to-prepare meals.
    • The diner: Most often the recipient when it comes to eating, preferring others to prepare meals.

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