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New Research Highlights When and Where America Eats

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The three inalienable food principles of U.S. consumers are health, convenience, and variety, and the single factor that most influences variations in interpretation of these food principles is age, according to "How We Eat: Retail and Foodservice Opportunities in When and Where America Eats," a new report from Packaged Facts.

Adults under 45 years old claim to have busier lifestyles than Baby Boomers and Seniors, making snacking and fast food more common due to their portability and convenience; meanwhile, snacking is so integral to the lifestyle of Millennials, adults under 30, that Packaged Facts stated it considers them a driving force that will propel the U.S. snack market to sales of $77 billion by 2015.

One side effect is that younger adults show a greater tendency to have poor eating habits or very unhealthy diets due to their feelings of being too busy to take care of themselves. Generation Xers, adults age 30 to 44, are more conscientious of their eating habits, primarily because they are more likely to be parents, according to the report. This results in Gen Xers being stronger supporters of home cooked meals and ready or frozen meals that can be eaten at home.

Boomers and Seniors are even more conscientious eaters who prefer to know the nutritional value of and ingredients in their foods, and are more willing to pay extra money for quality goods than younger adults. They snack much less, but tend to choose healthier snacks when they do. Older Americans also eat meals at home far more often. More Baby Boomers prefer cooking, while Seniors favor easy-to-prepare meals.

Older Americans also eat dinner earlier, with Seniors being active eaters from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both Baby Boomers and Seniors tend to eat alone more often than younger adults, but solo meals are increasing nationwide, according to the report. Seniors have a stronger tendency to eat socially during early morning and early evening hours.

Both Millennials and Gen Xers frequently indulge in the "Fourthmeal," an expansion of the midnight snack that is typically eaten outside the home and with at least one other person. Fourthmeal dining occurs between 10 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., according to Packaged Facts. Millennials are very social when they eat, especially when doing so at late hours, a tendency inherently linked to the college crowd that composes much of the group and is an extension of their penchant for social networking.

For more information on the report, click here.

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