The restaurant industry is increasingly concerned about people skipping meals, and as a result, has commissioned a research firm to identify why food abstinence is on the rise.
A universal reason for the omission of meals was not necessarily forthcoming. Nevertheless, the demographic profile of meal-skippers offers some interesting background on contemporary habits.
The research, produced by GDR/Crest Enterprises in Park Ridge, Ill., found that 15% of those surveyed regularly missed "opportunities" for breakfast, 8% omitted lunch and 3% passed on dinner. The numbers are not overwhelming, but the sales losses are significant, according to a report of the survey in Restaurants & Institutions magazine.
Those who decline breakfast are middle to upper-middle income types between 18 and 49 years old who live in urban areas with three to four people per household. Those who miss lunch tend to fall in a slightly higher age group with similar incomes, but originate from one- and two-person households. The most distinctive pattern is that single women, ages 25 to 34, are the group most likely to skip dinner, the magazine reported.
The reasons for this reluctance to eat include time constraints and a disinclination to interrupt busy work or recreation schedules.
As to the particular meals, breakfast was a victim of those with a desire to sleep longer, whereas lunch was often scratched because some felt they were far removed from food outlets. Dinner was most often forsaken by singles or young couples, who, lacking a multiperson household, have little incentive to prepare or seek out meals, the report stated.
The patterns seem to change on weekends, when those polled stated they are just as likely to miss lunch as breakfast.
"More specifically, 20% of all weekday breakfast opportunities are skipped compared to 15% on weekends. Just 9% of all adult lunch opportunities are skipped during the week, while 13% are skipped on weekends," the magazine reported.
The study offers food outlets several suggestions to combat food abstinence. The recommendations involve reaching isolated office workers, increasing the quality of snacks available at work sites beyond simply candy or chips and broadening takeout services, according to the survey.
Sausage's New Image--One product designed to lessen this trend of meal abstinence is being introduced this month with intentions of "chang(ing) . . . the way many Americans enjoy weekend breakfast."
Jones Dairy Farm has announced that it has developed a breakfast meat product with 60% less fat, 45% fewer calories and 40% more lean meat than traditional sausage. The new products are Light Breakfast Links, Light Breakfast Roll and Light Breakfast Brown & Serve.
The major reductions in fat and calorie content were made by adding rice to the meat to a level of 2.5% of the item's total weight. The rice not only acts to cut the undesirable fat content, but also helps reduce shrinkage. Unlike many highly processed meat products, the new Jones line contains no preservatives or artificial ingredients such as sodium nitrite.
The company stated that these so-called breakfast saviors will be priced competitively with traditional sausage links.
Focus on Fluoride--Plan on hearing a great deal about the fluoride content of mouthwash in advertisements during the coming months. The issue is about to surface because the federal government has tentatively approved language that would permit manufacturers of dental rinses to state that the products may help prevent cavities.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is accepting public comment on its proposed marketing standard on mouthwashes after studying whether sources other than toothpaste and the water supply would be effective in cavity prevention.
"The FDA concludes . . . that combining fluoride from several different sources--for example, from a toothpaste and a rinse--produces (additional) anti-decay effects," according to the agency's statement on the action.
The FDA recommends that those using a mouthwash with fluoride do so after brushing. The agency also stated that the dental rinses should not be used by children under age 6. Young children are especially susceptible to fluoride, and excessive amounts may create gray spots or streaks on teeth.
The federal government estimates that toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain fluoride have annual sales of about $600 million.
Salt Industry Gets Shakes--Several consumer advocacy groups have charged that the nation's food companies have been slow to reduce the sodium content in processed foods. The effort to lessen salt's presence in food stems from medical evidence that indicates that diets high in sodium are linked to hypertension and heart disease.
To counter the criticism, the Salt Institute revealed figures which seem to indicate that the basic seasoning agent is used in less volume today than in previous years. In fact, the institute stated that food-grade salt sales dropped a significant 17% in the late 1970s and early 1980s.