Fresh fruit is the No. 1 snack in America, and it's particularly popular… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
Congratulations, America! We’ve become a nation of healthier snackers.
So says market research firm NPD, which has declared fresh fruit the most popular snack food in the country. Even better, the popularity of fresh fruit is continuing to grow.
Over the course of a year, Americans snacked on fresh fruit an average of 10 times more than they snacked on chocolate and 25 times more than they snacked on potato chips, according to NPD’s recent “Snacking in America” report. Fresh fruit, chocolate and potato chips were the top three snack foods identified in the report.
Snacks now account for 20% of all “eating occasions,” the report says. (In case you were wondering, breakfast accounts for 28%, lunch for 25% and dinner for 27%, the market research firm says.)
And more of those snacks are being consumed in the morning at home: Since 2002, the number of morning snacks that the typical person eats over the course of a year has increased by 22. Afternoon and evening snacks at home have held pretty steady over the last five years.
What accounts for the popularity of fresh fruit? NPD experts offer several explanations:
1. Fresh fruit is popular among snackers in many age groups. It’s a favorite of children and of senior citizens, the report says. Although interest in apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, berries and other types of fruit wanes during the teen years, the older people get, the more fruit they eat.
2. Fresh fruit can be eaten at all times of the day. It works as a morning snack, afternoon pick-me-up and even as dessert.
3. Americans are caring more about their health, so fresh fruit holds more appeal.
4. People who eat healthy snacks tend to snack more often, so they have more chances to eat fresh fruit. (Yogurt and snack bars are also popular in this group, but fresh fruit is tops.)
The NPD market researchers identified six different needs that prompted people to snack: hunger; habit; health and weight control; as a convenient way to eat while on the go; to satisfy a craving; and as a treat while doing something else, like socializing with friends or watching TV. In all but the last of these cases, fresh fruit ranked as the No. 1 snack food.
The full report is only available to paying customers, but you can browse a summary of some of its findings online here.
For an entertaining look at the growth of snack culture, check out this story by my colleague Melissa Healy. She also wrote this nifty piece about a scientifically ideal snack, Aztec caramel chocolate popcorn.
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