When Consumers Eat Continues to Be in Flux

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When Consumers Eat Continues to Be in Flux


ROCKVILLE, Md. — What time consumers choose to eat has become as important as what and how they eat, according to Packaged Facts' new study, Eating Trends: Mealtimes and Snacking.

Mealtimes and dining patterns are increasingly shifting away from the three-meals-per-day schedule, especially as the trends of snacking between meals and eating multiple smaller meals per day continues.

Additionally, the importance of breakfast over lunch or dinner is in hot debate, according to the research firm.

"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 terms of the three main meals, a significantly higher number of adults consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day compared to lunch or dinner, according to the report's survey data. Despite this, the percentage of those who consider breakfast to be the most important meal has declined since 2008 as lunch and dinner both gained more priority.

Packaged Facts also found that the percentage of adults who eat several smaller meals throughout the day increased slightly from 2008 to 2018. In particular, certain essential and increasingly influential demographic segments are more likely to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day, including Hispanic, African-American and female consumers.

There is also a slight shift toward eating meals later. Between 2008 and 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. Gen Zers are among the most noteworthy diners who tend to eat in later dayparts, and Asian-Americans and millennial adults between ages 25 and 34 are disproportionately more likely to eat later in the evenings, results showed.