More US consumers than ever are eating their meals alone; this dining habit stands to impact food processing and packaging operations.
Americans are busier than ever—children are engaged in summer and after-school activities, people working longer hours, etc.; they also are more likely to live alone than in previous years. These two factors are among those contributing to an increase in consumer dining and drinking by themselves.
Darren Seifer, The NPD Group’s food and beverage industry analyst, told FoodProductionDaily the increased number of Americans eating alone could provide myriad opportunities to food firms savvy enough to cater to the trend.
“The number of solo eating and beverage occasions have wide-ranging implications for food and beverage marketers in terms of new products, packaging, and positioning,” he said.
While the image of mom, dad, and the kids sharing a meal together at the dining table is not a thing of a past, it is becoming a less-common picture, according to a recent market survey.
According to market intelligence outfit The NPD Group, consumers’ eating and drinking behaviors have shifted to become less household-oriented and more individualized. Now, more than 50% of eating and drinking occasions happen when consumers are by themselves, the research shows.
Snacks, or “non-meal occasions,” are the most likely eating/drinking events to take place alone, at slightly more than 70%. Breakfast noshing is about 60%, lunch near 55%, and dinner about 35%.
The growth in solo breakfasts is pushed by busy schedules, and an increase in consumers choosing to eat away from the homestead. More than half of lunches are alone, and the need for quick and simple eating is the key (again, due to time constraints).
Dinner is the meal most likely to be enjoyed with other people, thanks to many households adhering to the tradition of gathering the family together again for the evening repast. The NPD Group reports about 50% of families with children sit down to dinner together at least five times a week.
Seifer said food firms and packaging companies should keep an eye on shifting consumer behaviors when planning products and packaging.
“As lifestyles shift, it’s key for marketers to profile and segment occasions when their product is consumed in various ways, including solo versus social occasions, in order to connect most effectively with consumers,” he advised.