Americans Are Eating More Fresh Food

CHICAGO — The advice of "eat your fruits and vegetables" has taken hold. During the ten-year period from 2003 to 2013, the consumption of fresh food, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs grew by 20 percent to over 100 billion meals and snacks.

It is the youngest generations – Generation Z, ages 0-23, and Millennials, ages 24-37—driving the trend, reports foodservice researcher The NPD Group. The portion of fresh food in all three daily meals will continue to grow for those 40 and under during the next five years, according to NPD.

Breakfast is the main meal in which fresh food consumption is forecast to increase the most, growing 9 percent by 2018. Fresh food consumption will grow 7 percent for lunch and 5 percent for dinner. The additional prep and cooking that some fresh food requires isn't an issue for Millennial and older Generation Z consumers who want more involvement in preparing their meals.

Fresh food, such as fruit, will also be a key factor in the growth of ready-to-eat, better-for-you snacking over the next five years. Again, it's the younger generations driving the growth of better-for-you snacking. These consumers are looking for values like fresh or nutritious when it's time to "grab something in a pinch," instead of just grabbing anything for near-instant consumption. Convenience increasingly involves more better-for-you food as part of a meal or between-meal snack.

applesIn addition to eating more fresh food, Generation Z and Millennial consumers are also interested in eating more organic food. The interest in organics that was poised to take off in 2008 was stymied by the recession, but several trends indicate that interest in organic labels remains strong among the youngest generations, but drops off dramatically in those older than Gen Z and Millennials. Economic pressures, plus the idea that "it's too late for me," may be contributing to the reduced interest among older generations, according to The Future of Eating: Who's Eating What in 2018?.

"Generation Z and Millennials are driving changes in this country's eating behaviors with their approach to food choice and preparation," says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. "Foods on the store's perimeter will benefit from this increasing interest in fresh, and manufacturers of center of store items and retailers can take advantage of the 'fresh' trend by considering innovative ways to link their products to fresh foods."

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