Fred Wilkinson, managing editor
Fred Wilkinson, managing editor

A generation ago, President Ronald Reagan successfully campaigned for and won re-election on the theme of “Morning in America.”

According to recent article in The Wall Street Journal, however, America has moved on with their day, and it’s now Snack Time in America.

Over the past generation, Americans have increasingly abandoned the traditional three squares a day dining trifecta of breakfast, lunch and dinner and now are now mostly a bunch of serial snackers.

The percentage of Americans who snack at least three times each day grew to 56% by 2010, according to the article, up from roughly 20% in the 1990s and 10% in the late 1970s.

Bye-bye sitting down at the breakfast nook for bacon, eggs, toast and a slice of cantaloupe, hello bagel or a banana in the car on the way to work.

Eating three meals a day is a tradition dating back to ancient Greece, the article says, while snacking has been with us for only the past century or so.

Well-stocked supermarkets packed with thousands of edible SKUs are a miracle of modern life we all take for granted, and the age of food abundance has helped enable new eating patterns.

Coupled with that is the changed nature of family structure and work life in developed economies like the U.S.

It was easier for Mom to make breakfast and dinner every night when women generally stayed home to keep house and raise the kids rather than help support the family by having a full-time job outside the home.

Whether or not snacking is a healthy eating pattern, the consensus among dietitians is that there is no consensus.

The article says there isn’t scientific agreement on whether it is healthier to eat three full meals a day or consume frequent snacks, although snacking can be “risky” because it takes discipline to avoid overeating.

A glaring absence from the Journal piece is — you guessed it — how fruits and vegetables fit in to Americans’ new eating patterns.

Fruit gets a brief mention in an accompanying graphic detailing snack food preferences throughout the day.

The good news is that fruit is the leading choice as a morning snack, with 17% favoring it over dairy products such as yogurt, baked goods, meal-replacement bars or traditional go-to breakfast foods like waffles, pancakes and cereal.

Fruit’s popularity drops to 14% among afternoon snackers, still tied for first place with salty snacks, but it drops to 8% among evening snackers.

Produce marketers have been tailoring products and packaging for the grab-and-go market for some time, with new convenience-oriented offerings entering the already crowded market on a rolling basis.

And courtesy of Mother Nature, many produce commodities boast an innate convenience factor — apples and bananas immediately come to mind.

The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2014 consumer survey finds 89% report eating apples as a snack, and one could argue the banana peel is the original convenience packaging.

Of course, marketers have taken the convenience packaging ball and have sprinted to the goal line with it. Pack innovations have made such former salad items or baking ingredients as tomatoes or blueberries into snack foods available even at convenience stores.

As surely as active lifestyles and hectic schedules will be a defining part of the way we all live, fruit and vegetable marketers will keep pace with healthy and tasty snacking options.

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