Eating Patterns in America

Household changes will shape the future of eating for years to come. The “typical” U.S. consumer and the households in which they live are very different from those of 20 years ago. The changes are reflected across the spectrum of eating patterns today—who, what, when, where, how, and why.

Single-person U.S. households are 38 million strong and growing—the highest in history—This represents 55 percent of all adult only households. The typical size of an American family is 2.5 persons per household, with more than one-quarter with children headed by single moms. Smaller households, in many cases, are a long-term choice for adults choosing not to be married and/or have fewer children. This change has wide- ranging implications for retailers and manufacturers in terms of marketing, merchandising, new product development, packag­ing, and positioning.

By 2044, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that more than one-half of Americans will be in a minority group; by 2060, nearly one in five of the total population is projected to be foreign-born. The Hispanic population has accounted for more than half of the 27-million U.S. population increase in the last decade. Hispanics currently represent 18 percent of the total U.S. population. Although Hispanics will continue to be a very large and growing group, Asians are one of the fastest-growing ethnic populations, currently representing 8 percent of the U.S. population.

The Millennial generation is more diverse than the preced­ing generations, with 44 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group. Even more diverse than Millennials are the youngest Americans—those younger than 5 years of age. In 2014, this group became majority-minority for the first time, with 50 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group.

The share of the U.S. population that is considered middle income has been shrinking over the last four decades. In the past, those in the middle-income group typically moved up into higher income levels; today, however, the opposite is true. Declining or stagnant wages, coupled with a growing income gap during the past 15 years, have resulted in many families slipping out of the middle class.

If past trends continue, it’s unlikely that recovery from the Great Recession will lead to a rebound in the share of adults in middle-income households. Since the middle class has fueled spending on everything from housing to cars to food purchas­ing, a smaller middle class has a wide-ranging impact on the economy. See Figure 1.

This overview presents just a few of the changing con­sumer dynamics that will shape the retail marketplace in the future—both near and long term. Retailers need to be aware of changes in consumer behaviors in order to modify their market­ing tactics and strategies, and to meet the needs and wants of today’s consumers.

Source: Barry Berman, Joel R Evans, Patrali Chatterjee (2017), Retail Management: A Strategic Approach, Pearson; 13th edition.

1 thoughts on “Eating Patterns in America

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