(Jan. 5) Americans eat out, alone and on the go more than non-Americans. Is that good or bad news for produce?
A recent survey by Ipsos-Insight, Vancouver, British Columbia, found that just 54% of Americans sit down for a meal at home with their families “most days,” far fewer than the 88% of Italians who do so.
About 70% of people in the three Western European countries and 63% in the six Eastern European countries included in the survey do so.
Americans also are the most likely to eat at restaurants, to pick up take-out and to eat alone. One-third of Americans eat at restaurants at least a few days a week, one-third pick up lunch or dinner at least a few days a week and 27% get take-out from a restaurant, deli or food stand once a week.
At least one in five Americans eat on the go at least a few days a week. About 46% eat a meal alone at least most days, and many are eating alone every day.
Given that the U.S. is such a car-happy nation, it isn’t surprising that Americans eat on the go more than other countries, said Kathy Means, vice president of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.
Means said the produce industry can continue to address that reality by making fresh produce more and more convenient.
“Tastier, faster, easier should be our New Year’s resolution for new products moving into the marketplace,” Means said.
The industry also needs to boost the amount of fresh produce used in all types of restaurants, from quick-serve to upscale, and in noncommercial foodservice venues, especially schools, Means added. That’s important, she said, not only because Americans eat out a lot, but also because of the obesity problem the country faces.
Growing and selling more flavorful and convenient produce is crucial if the produce industry wants to keep up with the times, said Ron McCormick, vice president/division marketing manager for produce and floral, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.
“With our American fixation with fast food and eating on the run, we in the produce industry owe it to ourselves and the country to make produce fit into that lifestyle,” McCormick said.
Addressing changing consumption patterns is critical for the long-term health of Americans, as well as for the produce industry, agreed Grant Hunt, president of Grant J. Hunt, Oakland, Calif.
“These survey findings are the result of a two-generation shift in the lifestyle patterns of American family life,” Hunt said. “Without the basic skills and product knowledge to fully utilize the broad range of advantages to increase produce consumption, there remains a significant hurdle which prevents increased consumption.”
To successfully address the changing eating habits of Americans, the produce industry must focus on flavor, convenience, product knowledge and affordability, Hunt said.