Skipping Squares

U.S. consumers eating out, missing core meals

NEW YORK -- American consumers will spend on average $1,704 a year on eating and drinking out of their homes and miss almost 150 core meals by 2010, a new report from independent market analyst Datamonitor revealed.

Eating out is an ingrained part of national culture, and eating habits are evolving to meet the pace and structure of daily life. Consumers are responding to nutritional needs and the demands of daily life by missing meals, changing the times at which they eat and even changing the type of products they eat, said Matthew Adams, consumer markets [image-nocss] analyst at Datamonitor and author of the report.

Eating out in the evening is no longer considered a special occasion as the cost of casual dining has decreased and other motives have taken precedence. Only 6% of American consumers feel the most important reason for eating out is to have a special occasion. For almost half of the consumers (49%), eating out is ideal for connecting with friends.

Seeing friends: U.S., 49%; Europe, 36%. Experience: 27%; 37%. Saving time: 16%; 15%. Trying new foods: 2%; 5%. Special occasions: 6%; 5%. Part of routine: --; 2%.

Datamonitor forecasts that Americans will consume almost 50 extra breakfasts, lunches, evening meals and snacks per head outside the home in 2010 compared with 2005. Snacking is important to U.S. consumers as the out-of-home evening snack market is the second biggest daypart market at$137 billion, second only to lunchtime core meals at $148 billion. In Europe, where the market is forecast to grow to $356 billion (U.S.) by 2010, the overall experience is more important as the quality of food served and the variety of menu is largely taken for granted.

In the United States, lunch skipping is more of an issue than missed breakfasts. The U.S. consumer skipped on average 62 lunches in 2005, and this is set to increase to 65 by 2010. Compared to Europe, consumers in the United States missed three times as many lunches than their next closest comparators in France and the United Kingdom.

The motto of lunch is for wimps is straying into the breakfast occasion, too. The number of skipped breakfasts per head in the United States is forecast to increase to 64 in 2010. Europeans tend to eat breakfast out-of-home or skip it entirely more than is true of U.S. consumers. Breakfast skipping is most prevalent in the U.K., where almost one third of breakfasts are missed (114 per person per year on average).

Sitting around the table as a nuclear family for three core meals a day in the family home is now no longer a common reality, and lunch on the run is a fairer reflection of current consumer habits, said Adams. Many consumers are moving away from three core meals because they are skipping meals out of necessity.

Out-of-home eating and drinking consists of retail and foodservice purchased food and drinks products. The location of consumption is the most important aspect of the market definition. To qualify, food and drink products can be consumed in the workplace or in an educational setting, on a journey of significant length, in a restaurant or from a takeaway (provided that the food or drink is not taken home before being consumed).