Aging U.S. Consumers Slowing Down Food Consumption

Chicago / IL. (npd) While the American economy is improving, the aging population and corresponding changes in life stage will contribute to the decline in total eating occasions on a per capita basis in the U.S., according to the NPD Group’s recently released «Eating Patterns in America». Modest population growth will result in a less than one percent annual increase in total food and beverage demand, which isn’t significant enough to stop the decline in consumption occasions per capita.

The number of annual eating occasions per capita in the U.S. has been on a steady decline, reports NPD, which continually tracks all aspects of U.S. consumers’ eating attitudes and behaviours. U.S. consumers will average 1410 eating occasions per capita this year, or over 461 billion occasions for the total U.S. population, compared to 1453 occasions in 2009.

«Food and beverage consumption in the U.S. is perhaps the clearest definition of a ‘mature market’,» says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. «The balance between consumers eating in home or away from home has been stable for the past two years and neither the food retail or foodservice industries are increasing their ‘share of stomach’.»

The percentage of meals sourced in home increased gradually from 2002 to 2012 and currently 82 percent of meals are sourced from home, the remaining percentage of meals are sourced away from home. The balance of in home and away from home has been stable since. While both food retail and foodservice remain flat, there are variations in consumer choices between in home and away from home by daypart and food categories. For example, the share of in-home meals that include a blend of a prepared at home items and prepared away from home item has been steadily increasing and is forecast to grow.

«One thing remains certain: consumers must eat,» says Portalatin. «While it’s true that finding growth in this market is challenging for food and beverage marketers, those that focus on being meal solutions providers by understanding consumers’ needs and wants have the best shot at winning share.»