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Snacks account for 20% of all US eating occasions, market researcher claims

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Aug-2012

Snacks now account for one in five eating occasions in the United States, while main meals tend to consist of fewer items, according to a new report from market research organization The NPD Group.

In its new report, titled “Snacking in America 2012”, breakfast is the most common meal, accounting for 28% of all eating occasions, followed by dinner (27%), and lunch (25%), but snacks are not far behind at 20%.

The market researcher claims that US consumers are less likely to skip meals than they were five years ago, but they are more likely to describe breakfast, lunch and dinner as ‘mini-meals’, with the average number of items consumed at dinner, for example, falling from 5.3 in 1985 to 4.1 today. Meanwhile, dinner is still the eating occasion most likely to be considered a ‘full’ or ‘complete’ meal, it says.

But as variety at traditional mealtimes has narrowed, snacking in between meals has increased. Over half of Americans (53%) snacked two to three times a day, the market researcher found, and those with the healthiest overall diets were most likely to snack frequently.

NPD food and beverage industry analyst Darren Seifer said: “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.”

However, he added that the reasons people choose particular snacks vary according to demographics, moods 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,” he said.

The report claims that at-home morning snacking has shown the greatest growth of any eating occasion over the past decade, with an average increase of 22 morning snacks per person since 2002.

Its findings are broadly in line with other recent market research examining US trends in eating occasions. Packaged Facts, for example, issued a report earlier this month in which it claimed influential under-45s were likely to drive a growing snacking market in the United States.

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