The traditional ideology of eating three square meals a day is becoming a thing of the past as busy consumers are now looking to graze on a variety of snacks rather than commit to a full meal. According to a study conducted by Farm Rich, only 27 percent of Americans eat three square meals a day.
The national survey, which involved 2,000 adults, found that 86 percent of Americans regularly replace meals with snacks. On average, a person would eat two meals and three snacks a day. However, men were found to be more likely to consume three meals a day. Nevertheless, this is indicative of changing behavioral habits within the consumer space and food companies can take advantage of this by offering more snacking products. The modern consumer is very busy balancing a job (perhaps multiple jobs), personal hobbies and a social life, which means that food companies need to find a way to fit into busy consumer schedules.
This is why it’s not surprising that about half (49 percent) of the survey participants said that they replace lunch with snack meals and their peak snacking hours are between 1 pm and 4 pm. Lunch is usually consumed during working hours and it’s quite obvious to see that snack consumption is increased during this busy time. In fact, the average person was found to eat five snack meals a week, which corresponds to the five working days that most consumers have.
However, 81 percent of participants claimed that they ate snacks at home as well which implies that snacks are becoming part of a more frequent routine. With 45 percent of consumers claiming that they prefer the microwave to prepare, heat and eat snacks over conventional ovens, toaster ovens, air or deep fryers, convenience seems to be a key factor in this snacking trend. This might be why 33 percent of participants said that they shop in the freezer aisle at least once a week.
In addition to convenience, 49 percent of consumers turn to snack meals due to lack of time. Thirty-five percent claim to eat snack dinners to reduce food waste while 31 percent claim that snack meals offer more variety.
However, the top five reasons as to why consumers snack more are cravings, taste/flavors, enjoyment, fuel/energy and boredom. The top ten foods that make up “snack meals” include cheese, crackers, fruit, chips, nuts, veggies, yogurt, sweets, pretzels and frozen mozzarella sticks.
Millennials were found to be more likely to follow this trend. The majority of them said that they consume snacks in place of meals at least six times a week while consuming an additional six snacks on-the-go throughout the week. Only one in five adults who are 55 years or older said that they reach for snacks for fuel while 60 percent of them use snacks to curb cravings.
Nevertheless, millennials make up the largest segment of the US workforce with 80 million people under this demographic. This means that food companies need to keep up with the demands of a changing consumer demographics and it looks like quick, easy and portable meals are the key to connecting with busy millennials.
“Snacking gives flexibility to busy families and individuals with untraditional schedules,” said Shannon Gilreath, Director of Marketing, Farm Rich in a release. “This shift toward enjoying an all-snack meal or snacks on the go speaks to changing lifestyles, and the grocery freezer is a great resource for foods that offer the ease, long shelf life, variety and sustenance people sometimes need.”