Meal Times & Snack Times Are Getting Increasingly Muddier


ROCKVILLE, Md. — When people eat is now as important as how and what they eat, with mealtimes and dining patterns increasingly departing from the three-meals-per-day tradition, according to Packaged Facts' new study, Eating Trends: Mealtimes and Snacking.

As a result, the level of debate over the importance of breakfast as compared to lunch and dinner has risen sharply, and the trend of between-meal snacking and multiple smaller daily meals further affects mealtime management.

"There's a surging fluidity and interchangeability to modern mealtimes," said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "The reality is U.S. adults are increasingly eating differently, if not necessary eating less."

In 2018, breakfast was much more likely to be considered the most important meal of the day than lunch or dinner, according to survey data in the report. Despite this, the percentage of people who consider breakfast to be the most important meal has fallen since 2008, with lunch and dinner both gaining ground.

The percentage of adults who eat several smaller meals throughout the day also saw a slight increase during this time period. Some essential and increasingly influential consumer demographics that are more likely to do so include Hispanic, African-American and female consumers.

The survey also found a modest but marked trend toward eating meals later in the day. From 2008 to 2018, there was a slight drop in the percentage of adults who eat breakfast before 9 a.m., lunch before 1 p.m. and dinner before 8 p.m. Generation Z adults, aged 18 to 24, are among the most noteworthy diners who tend to eat in later dayparts. Asian-Americans and millennials aged 25 to 34 are disproportionately more likely to eat later in the evening.

Eating Trends: Mealtimes and Snacking is available here.

Rockville-based Packaged Facts is a division of It publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer demographics and shopper insights, consumer financial products and services, consumer goods and retailing, and pet products and services.