Americans report a lack of time to cook, enjoy food

PLANO, TX — Americans typically don’t have enough time to prepare and enjoy meals, according to the fifth annual U.S. Snack Index from Frito-Lay North America and The Quaker Oats Co., both subsidiaries of PepsiCo , Inc. In the future, three trends could emerge that are shaping a shift in the way consumers eat, the study says.

The first trend is the “Time Crisis Dilemma.”

According to the index, 80 percent of Americans surveyed feel as if their days have fewer hours, with 85 percent of younger generations feeling the same way. The index found that 60% of consumers expect these demands to increase in the new year. What’s more, the average American only has a total of 52 minutes per day to prepare, eat and enjoy their meals, with one-third of consumers saying they have less than 30 minutes to prepare and enjoy of the food.

Similarly, 35% of consumers integrate their favorite snacks into meals (an increase from previous years), the index notes. More than half of consumers use snacks as a key ingredient in “no-prep dinners,” also known as simple meals that require little time to prepare, while more than a third follow this routine several times a week.

As for why snacks are an integral part of no-prep meals, the index found that 51% of Americans “crave” a specific breakfast and 44% of Americans are too busy to cook.

While the internet has dubbed snack-focused meals the #GirlDinner, the index found that 92% of men are just as likely to use snacks in their meals compared to 92% of women, with 36% of respondents pushing the boundaries of snacking and meals more than in previous years.

Frito-Lay and Quacker said they expect no-prep dinners and dinners rooted in Americans’ favorite snacks to become more popular in 2024.

The second trend is the “Snack Savant”.

The index found that 83% of Millennials and 82% of Gen Z are most likely to embrace the Snack Savant title, with 77% of them also city dwellers. The survey found that what’s already in the pantry inspired 55% of respondents’ favorite snack combinations, and 32% of respondents used social media for additional ideas. The index also found that 80% of respondents agreed that combining multiple food items to create the “perfect bite” is an art form, while 65% of respondents admitted to having eccentric snack combinations.

Frito-Lay and Quaker predicted more Snack Savants will appear in 2024.

The third trend is “Snacking for tasty satisfaction”.

According to the index, 55% of Americans cite protein as the most important nutritional attribute when looking for snacks at a grocery store. Seventy-nine percent of consumers also admit that “it’s more important than ever for protein to take center stage” compared to previous years, and 80% of the most timely consumers feel the same way.

Energy incentives are also a factor in this trend. The index found that 60% of consumers want their favorite snacks to provide energy at least once a week. Specifically, 72% of parents are looking for an energy boost, compared to 72% of millennials, 62% of Gen Zs, 61% of Gen Xers and 46% of baby boomers.

When it comes to taste, 74% of consumers refuse to sacrifice it, with 84% of Baby Boomers and 75% of Gen Xers least willing to compromise, according to the survey.

Overall, Frito-Lay and Quaker predicted that purpose, protein and “packing a punch” will be the most important parts of breakfast in 2024.

“While our latest Snack Index confirms that time is short, the data also confirms that consumers are passionate about their food preferences,” said Denise Lefebvre, senior vice president of research and development for PepsiCo Foods. “Frito-Lay and Quaker have a tremendous opportunity to continue to meet the evolving needs of our consumers. As we look to 2024, it’s never been more important for us to infuse that inspiration with innovation, delivering on our promise of more smiles with every bite.”

Frito-Lay and Quaker said the index was conducted between Dec. 6 and Dec. 12, 2023, using a sample of 2,000 nationally representative U.S. adults age 18 and older. Both companies used an email invitation and an online survey to conduct the interviews. They also weighted the data to ensure an accurate representation of the US adult population 18 and older.

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