CHICAGO -- American consumers are less likely to skip their breakfast, lunch and dinner mealtimes today than they were five years ago. But these meals are often described as "mini-meals," according to new research from NPD Group.
NPD's recent "Snacking in America 2012" report found that although Americans still carve out main meal times, the number of items consumed at each main-meal has declined over time, and consumers snack in-between meals often.
Dinner is the only meal occasion in which consumers consider a full or complete meal, rather than a "mini meal," according to the snacking report. However, the average American today has only 4.1 food and beverage items at dinner, compared with 5.3 items in 1985.
Snacking is filling the gaps between traditional main meals, according to NPD. 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.
"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," says 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."