To stay relevant, the food service industry must be innovative and responsive to eating trends in the U.S., continually reinventing itself to offer consumers the culinary treats that satisfy the ever-changing appetites of Americans. But while dining trends ebb and flow overtime, there is one thing that has remained constant— the American family loves to eat together.
Even as Americans change how they eat based on nutrition or health concerns, families in the United States still gather around the dinner table most nights each week or enjoy other meals together at restaurants and fast food joints.
American Eating Habits– a Family Affair
According to a Gallup poll published in December 2013, political and religious views do not have a great effect on the number of times families eat at home together – that the modern family really does embrace the communal meal, whether that meal occurs in the family dining room or outside the home. The survey organization says that a majority of families say they eat about five dinners together at home each week, and by Gallup estimates, at least 1 of those meals are typically eaten at a restaurant.
How they’re eating is another story.
The Institute of Food Technologists has looked at trends of the various generations within the typical modern American family, including baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 and their millennial children and grandchildren born after 1980.
Studies show that 45 percent of millenials and25 percent of baby boomers have adopted a special diet, such as a vegan or gluten-free diet. And these diners with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are hungry for gluten-free foods and the food service industry is responding. In fact, Packaged Facts says that the market for gluten-free food and beverages is growing faster than anticipated, reaching $4.2 billion in 2012.
What Americans Value in Food
While Americans enjoy a good meal, there are several key factors important to families when it comes to their food:
- Quality and flavor
- Health and food safety
This is true whether the family eats at home, at a restaurant or out of a fast food bag.
With their busy lifestyles, the modern American family may not always eat dinner at 6 PM every night – many families now eat meals on the go, at odd hours. Families increasingly depend on the food service industry to offer nutritious and delicious food consistently at any time of day or night.
When eating at home, the family cook is always interested in saving as much time with preparation, cooking and cleanup, in order to spend more quality time with family, while still being involved in the cooking process. And Americans want the bold flavors, tenderness, texture and visual appeal of restaurant-quality meals.—which leads many home cooks to use packaged foods that allow them to participate in the final – and most rewarding – part of meal preparation.
A New Trend Emerges
And increasing number of families have become focused on losing weight and eating healthier, both at home and on the go. The modern family chef, therefore, seeks to prepare the most appetizing meal possible while trimming down the fat and preservatives— which means an increasing number of people want to know exactly what goes into their foods. And they’re reading the ingredient lists on food packages and menus looking out for fat, sugar and empty calories.
The increased consideration for nutrition has pressed the nation’s food service industry to offer items that are more healthful and to post nutrition information that helps consumers make better choices.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sixteen of the leading U.S. food and beverage companies sold 6.4 trillion fewer calories across the nation in 2012 than they did in 2007. This amounts to a reduction of 78 calories per person in the United States each day.
American eating habits change quickly. Today’s modern family relies on the food industry to deliver healthy, delicious foods that are convenient to prepare and easy to clean up. Food services companies partner with innovative third-party manufacturers to make these culinary dreams come true for every modern American family.