Bakers Journal

Report: Canadians to reduce restaurant visits

December 17, 2008
By NPD Group

Dec. 17, 2008, TORONTO – Even before the economic downturn hit North America in early September, a growing vigilance in eating behaviour started sweeping Canadian households. According to the latest Eating Patterns In Canada (EPIC) report from the NPD Group, a full 88 per cent of respondents revealed their intentions to decrease the amount of time spent dining out in restaurants, choosing the comforts of home instead.

A majority of Canadians (59 per cent) are also more conscious about the
nutritional value of what is eaten than they were three years ago with
a full 67 per cent of respondents noting that nutrition is an important
attribute in the preparation of their evening meal.

“There has been a hard shift back to traditional dining and in this respect, home and hearth are the natural choices for today’s consumer,” says Marion Chan of the NPD Group. "Although the main motivation behind this trend is nutrition and health and wellness, we can anticipate the weakening economy to accelerate the shift back to the family dinner table."
Given consumers are now closely scrutinizing the nutritional values of their grocery items, certain products have become the items of choice for the discerning buyer. Whole grain, trans-fat free and low fat items led the charge in terms of products that were eaten by Canadian consumers on a weekly basis (34 per cent, 31 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively) with a growing trend towards organic products continuing into 2009. Further, the continued efforts toward healthy eating is directly related to the decline of certain products being eaten by consumers. On this list include, carbonated soft drinks, pork chops and hot dogs, all of which fell in favour since 2006.
A booming trend
On the heels of the health-related eating patterns revealed in the study, Baby Boomers were found to be the demographic that drove change in the food arenas the most. With this demographic retiring later, with more disposable income and a renewed focus on health, this group will continue to forge the trend towards healthier eating.
The most important meal of the day
Grandma always said that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Canadians are finally taking heed of this advice as evidenced by the EPIC survey findings that reveal that breakfast skipping is at a 10-year low. And even though Canadians are eating breakfast, they are doing so on the fly with the majority (84 per cent) of breakfasts taking five minutes or under to prepare. For the most part, these meals include quick and easy-made foods with ready-to-eat cereals (52 per cent), toast (50 per cent) and eggs/omelettes (27 per cent) leading the charge. On the whole, the top four foods that Canadians will consume annually for breakfast include ready-to-eat cereals (90 per cent), toast (81 per cent), fruit (40 per cent) and eggs/omelettes (23 per cent). The importance of breakfast seems to be passed down to the next generation, with more breakfasts reported to being eaten by children in 2008 than in previous years. Conversely, Boomers aged 55+ are eating fewer breakfasts in home, and heading out to restaurants in the morning, with an increase in this dining out activity over previous years.
Mid-day madness
With breakfast growing in popularity, lunch has become the least important meal of the day. According to The NPD Group EPIC report, lunch is the most often skipped meal of the day. Sandwiches continue to lead the charge as the top food (44 per cent), followed by fruit (28 per cent) and yogurt (12 per cent). Yet, the reign of sandwiches at the top of the lunch food chain is waning, as other items, such as “pick ‘n’ pack” meals of yogurt, fruit, vegetables and cheese gain ground. Cereal has also transcended its place as a strictly “breakfast” food with a number of respondents noting its place as an adequate lunchtime meal or snack (STAT).
Soup's on
The EPIC report found that there has been a return to the home and hearth with dinner being served and prepared at the family dinner table with increasing frequency. Perhaps most surprisingly is the shift in gender roles with men becoming more responsible for preparing and cleaning up after meals. Most notably, 25 per cent of households now say that the majority of food shopping is the responsibility of the male member compared to the years 2004 through 2007. Family time in general has been facilitated by meals at home with a full 81 per cent of respondents indicating that dinner is eaten together as a family five to seven days a week.                           
Apples and oranges … or bananas
The EPIC report found that the growth of snacking is outpacing any other meal of the day. As a matter of fact, the snack meal is now firmly embedded as the fourth meal of the day, as it has become a deliberate and planned meal occasion for many Canadians. Of the top 10 growing food items eaten for snacks, many of them are fruits. These include apples, bananas, yogurt and grapes, among others. While snacking is done throughout the day, evening seems to be the most popular time for this indulgence with 50 per cent of respondents admitting to eating snacks during this period.
“Clearly, Canadians’ food choices are shifting and will continue to change as consumers become more educated about nutrition, health and well-being. As well, the economy will play a large role in defining how the family dollar is spent when it comes to food. Both those in the food service industry as well as manufacturers can take heed of these results in order to make the best decisions for their respective businesses moving forward,” says Chan.


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