US Eating Patterns: More Things Seem to Stay the Same, the More they Change

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A burger has held the crown as the top food ordered at restaurants in the United States for decades, but now it may well be a plant-based burger, according to this year’s edition of the NPD Group’s Eating Patterns in America, which is an annual compilation of the market research company’s daily tracking of consumption behavior in the US.

American consumers may appear to be creatures of habit in their dining patterns, but the foods they eat today have a modern twist that is influenced by a host of factors including ethnicity, age/generational grouping, and health/social consciousness.

“For 34 years the NPD Group has been tracking eating patterns in America, and from a towline view many of the same foods are being consumed today as they were three decades ago,” said David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “But go a little deeper and you see that all aspects of eating patterns – the who, what, when, where, how, and why – are changing.”

Here are some quick takes from this year’s findings:

  • There were over 460 billion in- and away-from-home eating and drinking occasions in the USA last year.
  • 16% of consumers regularly use plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, tofu, and veggie burgers; 89% of these consumers do not consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.
  • 14% of in-home eating occasions included at least one item that required no preparation, compared to only 11% of occasions in 2013.
  • Visits to quick service restaurants have increased by 630 million since 2014, while total visits to restaurants have declined by more than 700 million.
  • 19% of grocery shoppers now order their edible groceries online; from 2017 to 2020 the average annual growth rate for digital restaurant orders is forecast at 22%.
  • One in five adults try to manage a health condition with their food and beverage choices.

“This past year we’ve seen emerging new eating trends that will impact both the food and beverage and restaurant industries in the years to come,” commented Portalatin. “Food manufacturers and restaurant operators will need to understand how these trends will impact their businesses in order to stay ahead of the curve.”

For more information about the report, visit