What Americans REALLY Eat
By Al McClain
What Americans believe they should eat, and what they actually eat, often have little in common. In a recent study by Yankelovich, summarized in an article on foodprocessing.com, 82 percent of responding consumers say they are directly responsible for their health and 87 percent think individuals are responsible for the obesity epidemic. Yet, 72 percent say if food doesn’t taste good they won’t eat it, no matter how healthy and nutritious it is.
Respondents identify fruit and vegetables as the top two foods for a healthy diet, yet 60 percent say they eat too few fruits, and 49 percent say they eat too few vegetables. Sixty-six percent identify steaming as the healthiest way to prepare food.
Meanwhile, according to the CDD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there were 0 states in 1991 with an obesity occurrence rate of 20 percent or greater. By 2004, there were 33 states with a 20-24 percent occurrence rate, and 9 states with a 25 percent or greater rate.
At this weekend’s GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) Executive Conference, Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group, discussed trends from their latest eating survey, which is based on what consumers did in the immediate past. Here are a few of the findings:
- Top five items ordered out – men: burgers, fries, pizza, breakfast sandwich, side salad
- Top 5 items ordered out – women: fries, burgers, pizza, side salad, Chinese food
- 70 percent of breakfasts still include coffee
- Top breakfast items: coffee, cereal, juice, milk, toast, fruit, eggs, hot cereal – with toast on a BIG long-term decline
- Percentage of consumers eating one or more item per week: 74 percent reduced/low fat; 51 percent light; 39 percent calcium-fortified; 36 percent vitamin-fortified; 25 percent reduced sodium
- Grilling is at an all time high: 32 percent of meals vs. 17 percent in 1985
- Meals prepared at home AND those eaten in restaurants are declining – with take-out up, and those eaten in the car the biggest portion of that.
- While the percentage of females in the work force has grown to 59 percent, versus 35 percent in 1950, recently the trend has leveled off and being a stay-at-home mom is perceived by more females as an attractive option (representing an opportunity for in-home meals?)
- Fastest declining restaurant menu item: salad
- Fastest growing restaurant menu item: fried chicken (in various forms, and don’t call it fried)
- Restaurant chains most dependent on women: Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, Piccadilly (cafeteria), Marie Callender
- Restaurants most dependent on men: Hooter’s (insert joke here), Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, Wienerschnitzel, Waffle House
- Consumers checking labels often: 52 percent in 1985; 63 percent in 1995; 50 percent in 2006. (Are we tired of seeing that everything is “bad” for us?)
- Carbonated soft drinks are the fastest growing breakfast item, with nearly 8 percent of breakfasts including a soft drink.
- Percent of in-home meals with at least one fresh item has declined from 55 percent in ’85 to 47 percent now.
- Yogurt continues to grow, as a stand-alone and an ingredient.
- In 24 percent of all meals purchased from a restaurant, the consumer never gets out of the car.
- Taste preferences change VERY slowly.
- Whole Foods customers eat out 3x as often as supermarket shoppers.
Moderator’s comment: What eating trends are restaurants, food retailers, and suppliers failing to fully leverage? What is holding back food retailers
from adding drive-thrus to compete with restaurants and capitalize on the “eat in the car” trend? –
Al McClain – Moderator
- Overweight and Obesity: Obesity Trends: U.S. Obesity Trends 1985–2004 – CDC
- NPD Group website – http://www.npd.com/
- Toops Scoops: Our own worst enemies – FoodProcessing.com