We are still a nation of snackers, but Americans remain loyal to their three-meals-a-day habit in addition to jumping aboard the snacking trend craze.
According to a new study from researchers the NPD Group, between meal snacking accounts for about a third of all eating occasions for US consumers, but they continue to view the day as generally having three main meal occasions that align with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Researchers say consumers’ adherence to this practice is primarily culturally-based. “Daily societal norms in the US are typically scheduled around meal times; going to work and school after breakfast, taking a break for lunch, being home by dinner,” says the NPD Group. “This conditioning begins at a young age when kids are held the closest to the standard three meals per day by their parents.” While this discipline dips a bit when individuals are in their twenties and again later in life, consumers still try to get back to the schedule they learned as children.
However, there has been a shift in what consumers eat at each meal with the number of dishes and ingredients used to prepare main meals continuing to decline as more consumers rely on “healthy” portable snack foods to be a part of their breakfast, lunch, and dinners. Researchers say as the size of consumers’ meals shrink and people continue to incorporate more traditional “snack” foods into main meal menus, the perception is they are grazing or snacking more. But these mini-meals do not add new eating occasions during the day as consumers continue to eat three main meals.