Pulse report: How America Eats - Capturing Growth with Food on the Run

CPG marketers must start looking at the competitive landscape differently, extending their presence to engage consumers across all, not just home-based, eating occasions, according to IRI's new Times & Trends Report, "How America Eats: Capturing Growth with Food on the Run."

Robert Tomei,
President of IRI Consumer & Shopper Marketing

According to IRI, Americans follow four different types of eating styles. The largest group, "traditional" eaters, represents 38 percent of the population. Their behavior is characterized by eating three "square" meals and various snacks each day. Another 14 percent of the population eats three square meals without snacking during a typical day. The third group, "grazers," tend to eat four or five "mini-meals" each day.

Representing 21 percent of the population, "opportunist" eaters come from all demographic groups. But, there are some striking differences between opportunists and other types of eaters. Opportunists are avid deal seekers. They also tend to favor convenience over nutritional value–they eat what they want, when they want to eat it.

In fact, 45% of opportunists eat whatever they want, with little or no consideration of caloric intake or nutritional value. About 36 percent of opportunist eaters split their healthy and indulgent eating behaviors equally. Another 16 percent is more vigilant, eating healthy 80 percent of the time and indulging 20 percent of the time.

The group often turns to restaurants or foodservice outlets for food that can be purchased quickly and consumed easily. So, solutions geared toward opportunists should cater to their propensity for on-the-go eating.

Conservative estimates characterize this group as a $90 billion market for CPG marketers. Interestingly, 31 percent of opportunist eaters tend to buy whatever food or beverage is on sale, with little concern for nutritional value. This group is receptive to promotions and deals, so a smart marketer will be sure their brand's value proposition is prominent and clearly communicated.

The blurring of eating occasions is creating new growth opportunities for CPG marketers to communicate with shoppers beyond home-based eating occasions. Pulling market share from restaurants and QSRs, even if only for a fraction of occasions, could translate to a sizable revenue boost for CPGs.

Strategies to Boost CPG's "Share of Stomach"

Winning just half of one percent share of restaurant spending would translate to well over $1 billion for the CPG industry, says IRI. Listed are key strategies to win share of stomach and spark growth:

  • Evolve portfolio and marketing strategies to win shoppers from competing CPG channels/banners/manufacturers
  • Create new growth opportunities by broadening marketing messages and platforms to communicate with consumers across all eating and drinking occasions
  • Cultivate relationships and build loyalty across existing and emerging high-potential consumer segments

Source: IRI

* Note: These groups combine to comprise "planners" for purposes of this research; numbers may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Source: IRI, Consumer Eating Behavior survey, May 2013

About one-in-five Americans takes an on-the-go approach to eating, grabbing food or drink when the opportunity presents itself.

Americans display a wide variety of attitudes toward health, wellness, eating and exercise. These forces, coupled with a long-standing difficult economy, converge to influence the way consumers shop for consumer packaged goods. IRI's just-released segmentation, NutriLink–based on the same survey described above–breaks U.S. consumers into six distinct groups, which will assist marketers as they develop new product, promotion, merchandising, pricing and store layout strategies designed to cater to key audiences.


Marketers must deliver highly targeted and value-oriented marketing programs and messages. A prominent value proposition is especially important when reaching millennial shoppers.

Source: IRI, Consumer Eating Behavior survey, May 2013

Fast Frugal

  • Eats on the run
  • Chooses taste and convenience over health and nutrition
  • Selects products to create more meals at lower total cost
  • Does not like exercising

Healthy Chic

  • Likely to follow strict diet/eat healthy
  • Prefers fresh food; minimizes processed food
  • Economy has not impacted attitudes toward food or consumption habits
  • Exercise is key to managing health

Wise & Healthy

  • Believes in eating healthy
  • Focuses on fiber in diet; watches portion size
  • Does not feel need to make food last longer or change behavior based on price
  • Schedules exercise 2-4 times a week

Sensible SuperMom

  • Price is important when making food and beverage decisions
  • Eats 3 square meals and snacks during the day
  • Eats more family meals; brings food to school/work more often
  • Talks to children about importance of exercise

Carefree Coaster

  • Eats without consideration for nutritional intake/ calorie count
  • Little/no interest in any food-related activities
  • Little or no concern about economy
  • Minimal interest in exercise

Convenient & Content

  • Prefers ready-to-eat foods over preparing meals
  • Often eats from fast food/dine out restaurants and takeout
  • Poor economy has had no impact on food related behaviors
  • No time to exercise

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