How American Eating Habits Are Evolving in 2022

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Consumer Behavior

American eating habits are evolving as Millennials become the primary consumers of food service and grocery store innovations. Their buying habits are vastly different from the generations before them, shaping how Gen Z and Gen Alpha will spend their money on food. 

Millennials’ current spending power is $2.5 trillion, and they are spending more each year. They make up 30% of total retail consumers, which continues to climb. 

What changes can we expect in the coming years as Millennial consumers begin to take over the marketplace? 

Key Takeaways:

  • Consumers are moving away from traditional meal times and prefer frequent snacks over formal meals. They are also opting to eat while working or performing other tasks.
  • Food delivery and easy, grab-and-go meals are rising as more people are too busy to stop and eat. Grocery delivery services are also on the rise.
  • “Ugly” foods are very popular among consumers today. Environmentally conscious shoppers are willing to buy less attractive yet deliciously imperfect foods.
  • Consumer eating habits include buying fresh ingredients and eating at home rather than at a restaurant.
  • Consumers are more aware of product ingredients and have more brand awareness regarding quality and whether a store brand can offer the same value as brand names.

10 American Eating Habits Evolving in 2022   

Today, consumers care more about the environmental impact of their eating habits. Climate change concerns Millennials, and as a result, they tend to opt for eco-friendly food packaging. 

Roughly 40% choose brands that offer a positive environmental impact, and 33% refuse to do business with a company that harms the environment. They also support businesses that support diversity. 

Infograph of consumer buying and eating habits based on a brand's societal and environmental impact.

Image Courtesy of Influencer Marketing Hub

Aside from a brand’s environmental impact, what else are consumers looking for, and how is it impacting their eating habits? Let’s check out the new eating habits here in America.

1. Unscheduled Eating  

People today are not having children at the rate they used to. Approximately 60% of Millennials don’t have children, and many don’t plan to have any. As a result, traditional “family meals” are not as common as consumers opt for snacks over sitting down to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They grab food when hungry and eat it while on the move. 

2. Multitasking Meals    

As people move through their fast-paced life, sitting down for a meal is almost unheard of today. Multitasking during meal times is another common trend among consumers today. Many eat at their desk instead of taking a lunch break. Others catch a snack or a meal while commuting. 

3. Delivery Services and Grab-and-Go  

Food service delivery is at an all-time high, with more than 60% of consumers ordering from one of these services at least once a week. Another growing trend is portable options that allow consumers to take their meals with them. Many food service delivery companies will send individual meal options as quick, on-the-go options.

4. E-Commerce Groceries    

One innovation evolving consumer spending habits (and therefore the eating habits) today is the rise in e-commerce grocery app ordering and delivery. On May 27, 2021, Amazon began selling fresh and refrigerated grocery items,  boasting free two-hour delivery for Prime Members. Several smaller sites have followed suit. Customers can even order online from the Amazon app and pick it up in stores. 

5. “Ugly” Foods 

The sale of imperfect foods is on the rise as environmentally-conscious consumers do their part to eliminate food waste buying purchasing and eating “ugly foods” – food deemed aesthetically unpleasing, resulting in not being sold in grocery stores. Food stands offer these foods for sale, or you can sign up for one of the imperfect food suppliers from a direct-mail ordering site.

6. Fresh Seekers

During the Great Depression, the scare of Y2K, and the Great Recession, people began to stock up on bulk, non-perishable food items. With the fear of running out of fresh options (and food completely), people began to learn recipes that made these “doomsday” dishes more palatable.

Today, fresh is best, and people are not buying as many groceries from the non-perishable and dry food sections. The produce and meat departments are where shoppers spend most of their grocery budget. 

Today, consumers want food that feels homemade without all the effort. Consumers buy salad and lunch meats from the deli, fresh dairy from the dairy department, and wholesome bread and baked items from the bakery. 

7. Homemade Meals 

In the 1950s, people ate at home more often than they ate out. Thirty years late, in the 1980s, fast-paced became the new normal, and fast food and drive-thrus grew in popularity. 

Today, consumers value homemade meals like they did 70 years ago. Since people are opting to cook dinners at home, the hunt is for the perfect recipe. Finding new and healthy recipes is a trend among consumers today, like in the past.

8. Product and Brand Awareness

Bar graph of consumer brand awareness

Image Courtesy of PLMA

Food quality matters to consumers today now more than in years past. In a digital age where information is readily available, consumers are more informed about what they eat and drink, food safety, and its possible effects on the human body. 

Customers care about who makes the food they consume, the brand’s reputation for quality and service, and which store brands offer the same quality for a better value. People aren’t blindly buying food and beverage items without doing their research. 

See How American’s Eating Habits Continue to Evolve at SIAL America  

The way we eat has changed dramatically over the years. Today, developments in food service technology are influencing American eating habits. At SIAL America, you get a glimpse into how consumer habits have changed and see what innovations we can expect in the food service industry in the coming years.

Stay up on the latest eating habits and trends for 2022. Register to attend the next SIAL America show. Interested in becoming an exhibitor? We’d love to have you in the show!