Nearly half of all US consumers eat alone, new research finds

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 13th November 2012

Eating alone has become as common as eating together in America, according to new research on eating occasions by US market researcher, The Hartman Group.

Analysis of the data reveals that close to half (46 percent) of all adult eating occasions are now solitary eating occasions and 40 percent of all adult meals (excluding snacking occasions) are eaten alone.

Laurie Demeritt, The Hartman Group’s president and COO said that one of the most interesting aspects of the trend toward eating alone is the notion that it represents “the dismantling of the communal meal and the way we used to eat.”

“When you consider these findings and look at the changing patterns of our cultural eating behaviors, we begin to understand why many companies that continue to market to traditional family occasions are missing out on the emerging possibilities concealed within the eating alone occasion for a vast number of adults,” Mr Demeritt said.

The Hartman Group’s and data collection reports that eating alone has become so pervasive that many people don’t realise it is even happening, “underscoring what a ubiquitous behavior solitary eating is.”

Consumer trends that have influenced the rise of eating alone, according to The Harman Group:

The decades after WWII saw the movement of mothers into the work force, the rise of single-parent households and the rise of technology (e.g., television), all of which made inroads on traditional, social, sit-down “family meals.”

A gradual loss of focus over the past fifty years on the importance of dining communally during specific meal occasions. Consider the now nearly-forgotten practice of workers and school children returning home midday for family lunches or the increasingly rare “family dinner.”

In modern culture, many meal occasions, especially those that are solitary, are now characterised by the mechanics of eating and not the celebration of food occasions. A common example is the now-pervasive practice of Americans eating alone at their desks while they work.

America is now a snacking culture where eating any time of day is a personal right, and satiety is often the goal. Consumers increasingly believe that eating smaller meals more frequently is healthier and that snacking bridges gaps between meals due to long work and commute times.

While eating alone is often described as a lonely prospect, riddled with pitfalls related to poor dietary judgment and introspective nutritional fixations, The Hartman Group sees that the growing trend of eating alone is also influencing some profoundly positive and different ways of looking at such an occasion.