ROCKVILLE, Md. - Whether you consider the American cultural landscape to be a melting pot or a salad bowl, one thing is for certain: our mealtime habits are almost as diverse as the medley of cultures that comprise our great nation. According to "How We Eat: Retail and Foodservice Opportunities in When and Where America Eats" from Packaged Facts, the single factor that most influences variations in our interpretation of these food principles is our age.
Adults under age 45 claim they have busier lifestyles than baby boomers and seniors, making snacking and the consumption of fast food far more common due to the portability and convenience of these foods. Snacking is so integral to the lifestyle of Millennials (adults under the age of 30), that Packaged Facts considers them a driving force that will propel the U.S. snack market to sales of $77 billion by 2015.
Between Millennials and Gen Xers (adults between the ages of 30 and 44), the latter segment is far more conscientious about their mealtime habits, largely because Gen Xers are more likely to be parents. Because of this, Gen Xers are largely advocates of the thunderous €" if financially necessary €" return of the home cooked meal that has swept the nation since the onset of the recession.
Meanwhile, Baby Boomers and seniors are much more conscientious eaters who prefer to know the nutritional value of and ingredients in their foods. They are also more willing to pay extra money for quality goods than younger adults. Though they rarely snack, when older Americans do indulge, they typically choose healthier snacks. Meals at home are also far more common for older Americans.
Older Americans also tend to dine early, especially seniors who are active eaters from 6 am to 6 pm. Both Boomers and seniors tend to eat meals alone more than younger adults, though solo eating overall is on the uptick nationwide. Seniors, more so than boomers, have a strong tendency to eat socially during the early morning and early evening hours.
Both Millennials and Gen Xers are frequent indulgers in what has been colloquially dubbed the "Fourthmeal," a dining occasion that is an expansion of the midnight snack and is typically eaten outside the home and with at least one other person. Packaged Facts defines Fourthmeal dining as occurring between 10 pm and 5:59 am.