Consumers Still Eat Three Meals a Day, With a Twist

CHICAGO — While on-the-go consumption and snacking is all the rage, accounting for a third of all eating occasions, consumers are still partaking in eating three main meals a day, The NPD Group reported.

According to NPD’s daily tracking of eating and snacking behaviors, although consumers still hold to three main meals a day, there is a shift in what consumers eat at these meals.

The first shift is the number of dishes and ingredients used to prepare the main meal has declined. This decline comes as more consumers rely on “healthy,” portable snack foods to be a part of their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The second shift is the size of the meal. Meal sizes are shrinking as people continue to incorporate more traditional “snack” foods into main meal menus, giving the impression consumers are grazing or snacking more. However, these “mini-meals” are not adding new or additional occasions to the day, as consumers continue to eat three main meals each day. 

Consumers’ adherence to three main meals is primarily culturally based on the three scheduled meal times: breakfast, lunch and dinner. This conditioning begins at a young age when kids are held closest to the standard three meals by their parents. As individuals get older, they begin skipping meals due to busier schedules, but return to maintaining this standard again later in life, NPD reported. 

“There is a lot of buzz about snacking these days. One headline could talk about how snacking is up and another might say we graze throughout the day instead of eating a main meal,” stated Darren Seifer, NPD's food and beverage industry analyst and author of Snacking in America. “While those headlines are eye-grabbing and give people something to talk about, it’s important to read past them and dig into the details. The opportunities are uncovered by the details and not the headlines.” 

The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions.

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