Tag Archives: Eating Patterns in America

We Eat What We’ve Always Eaten – Subtle Change vs. Massive Innovation; Maybe it Depends on the Industry

We are what we eat, so they say.  And, here’s the really interesting/surprising/not-so-surprising news.  We eat what we have been eating, over the very long haul.  Here are a number of excerpts regarding the 25th anniversary of the study of what we eat, from Sylvia Rector (Detroit Free Press): Trendy though we think we are, pop, burgers and fries still No. 1.

As founder and director of the NPD Group’s annual Eating Patterns in America study, Harry Balzer probably knows more about what we eat than anyone else in the country.
So when Chicago-based NPD announced that this was the study’s 25th anniversary, I called Balzer to find out what he considered the biggest changes in our eating habits in the past quarter century.
“In the long run,” he says, “the top three foods we ordered in 1978, when I first started — were (in order) carbonated soft drinks, french fries and hamburgers.
“And yesterday, the top three foods we ordered at restaurants were carbonated soft drinks, hamburgers and french fries. … We’ve changed so much!” he joked.

What we eat: Pop, Burgers, and Fries

So, where is the change?  Primarily, it is found not in the “what,” but in the “where.”  We get our “staples” from different places. Again, from the article:

We still order all those burgers and fries, but new players keep arriving to sell them. The fastest-growing restaurant chain in America, Balzer says, is Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which didn’t open its first store until 1986.
As he puts it, “It’s not whether you’ll eat pizza or not eat pizza, but about what brand of pizza you’ll eat.”
We’re so predictable, he adds, “I already know that in 2020, the things we’ll order most in restaurants will be soft drinks, hamburgers and fries,” even though he can’t say now where we’ll buy them.

The column concludes with this, which is reminiscent of findings in Switch:  How To Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath:

The force of habit is indeed strong — something to remember if you, like me, are planning to change the way you eat in the new year.