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Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Feeding the Family – US market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

The percentage of households with children in the US has steadily declined over the last 10 years. Adults are waiting longer to have children, and as a result they are having fewer children than previous generations. This, however, has not stopped them from spending on food for their family. In that same time period there has been an increase in consumer spending on both food at home and away from the home. While post-recession Millennials were more cautious to start a family, an increase in median household income over the last eight years points toward a more hopeful mindset for future parents.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Ariel Horton, a leading analyst in the Lifestyles sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Providing meals for the family is an everyday job for parents; 98% say they are responsible for preparing at least some, if not most, of the meals the family eats. Parents want to provide healthy, satisfying meals while also ensuring maximum enjoyment for all family members Ariel Horton
Lifestyles & Leisure Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Market overview
          • Top takeaways
            • Key consumer trends
              • Mother knows best
                • Figure 1: Mealtime responsibility, by gender, January 2020
              • For dads, perception is not reality
                • Figure 2: Family mealtime – family food prep, by gender, January 2020
                • Figure 3: Sources of inspiration – my partner/spouse, by gender, January 2020
              • Convenience is the top mealtime priority
                • Figure 4: Priorities for family meals, January 2020
              • Healthy is important but comes in many forms
                • The role of kids
                  • Figure 5: Lunch choices, by age of children, January 2020
                • What it means
                • The Market – What You Need to Know

                  • When is the right time to start a family
                    • Full house is most common
                      • Income points to a brighter future
                        • Parents aspire to cook at home, but rely on convenience of foodservice
                        • Household Composition

                          • Percent of households with children is consistently declining
                            • Figure 6: Percent of households with children, 2008-2018
                          • Gen Z will likely follow Millennials, waiting to have children
                            • Figure 7: Average age of mother at first birth, 1990-2017
                          • Changing birth rate reflects changing norms
                            • Figure 8: Annual births, 2007-17
                          • Millennials make up the majority of the parent market
                            • Figure 9: Households with own children under age 18, by age of householder, 2018
                          • White families dominate the market, but Black and Hispanic parents are more likely to have kids
                            • Figure 10: Households with related children, by race of householder, by Hispanic origin of householder, 2018
                            • Figure 11: Fertility rates, by race and Hispanic origin, 2017
                          • Living arrangements can vary by racial group
                            • Figure 12: Living arrangement of children under age 18, by race and Hispanic origin, May 2019
                          • Dads run a small, but growing, share of households
                            • Figure 13: Percent change of living arrangements of children under age 18, by race and Hispanic origin, 2008-18
                          • Stay-at-home parents remain consistent
                            • Figure 14: Married couple family groups with children under age 15 at home, by presence of stay-at-home parent, 2008-18
                        • Family Income and Spending

                          • Expenditures on food continue to increase
                            • Figure 15: Sales of food at home and away from home, January 2010-December 2019
                          • Parents are aspirational cooks
                            • Figure 16: Share of food expenditures for in-home food vs dining out, 2013-18
                          • Married households benefit from two incomes
                            • Figure 17: Median household income, by type of household, 2017
                          • Household income has rebounded, pointing toward a more hopeful future
                            • Figure 18: Median household income of families with related children, in inflation-adjusted dollars, 2007-17
                        • Key Trends – What You Need to Know

                          • Parents are desperate to save time
                            • Meals act as a gateway to enable family time
                              • Healthy comes in many forms
                                • Changes in school meals
                                • What’s Happening Now

                                  • The great intention of meal planning
                                    • Figure 19: Meal prep search history trend, February 2020
                                    • Figure 20: Tasty meal prep recipe examples, December 2017, August 2018
                                    • Figure 21: I plan most meals at least a day in advance, by gender, January 2020
                                  • Meal kits’ moment in the sun
                                    • For the parent who likes to cook, grocery store pickup and delivery is the preferred time saver
                                      • A return to family dinner
                                        • Figure 22: Our family eats dinner together during the week, January 2020
                                      • Is organic still trending?
                                        • Figure 23: Organic is a top priority, by region, January 2020
                                      • Food allergies aren’t just a priority for families with allergies
                                        • Figure 24: My kids have a food allergy, by level of education, January 2020
                                    • What’s Happening Next

                                      • Ready-made meals are the next popular time saver
                                        • The benefits of mealtime come more from the time than the meal
                                          • Meatless Monday, a new mealtime tradition
                                            • Figure 25: Impossible Foods pork example, January 2020
                                          • Changes to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act
                                            • Private schools start making executive decision in diet of school lunches
                                              • Figure 26: Vegetarian/vegan is a priority, by income, January 2020
                                              • Figure 27: Vegetarian/vegan is a priority, by region, January 2020
                                            • Mixed diet families on the rise
                                            • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                              • Moms are still the kitchen managers
                                                • Dads are the less confident sous-chef
                                                  • Convenience reigns supreme
                                                    • With age comes responsibility
                                                      • We’re having innovation for breakfast
                                                        • Control and consistency make parents happy
                                                          • There is room for independence in snacking
                                                          • Who Is Responsible for Mealtime?

                                                            • Level of mealtime responsibility
                                                              • Figure 28: Mealtime responsibility, January 2020
                                                            • Is mom or dad the head chef?
                                                              • Figure 29: Mealtime responsibility, by gender, January 2020
                                                              • Figure 30: You should’ve asked comic, May 2017
                                                            • Race and ethnicity play their part in traditional gender roles
                                                              • Figure 31: I prepare most meals, by race and gender, January 2020
                                                            • Amount of time spent at home, impacts who prepares most meals
                                                              • Figure 32: Mealtime responsibility, by employment, January 2020
                                                          • Top Priorities for Family Meals

                                                            • Parents prioritize the practical
                                                              • Figure 33: Priorities for family meals, January 2020
                                                            • Priorities differ for moms and dads
                                                              • Figure 34: Priorities for family meals, by gender, January 2020
                                                            • Asian parents are motivated by health claims
                                                              • Figure 35: Priorities for family meals, by race and Hispanic origin, January 2020
                                                            • Standard food rules dominate in Midwestern families
                                                              • Figure 36: Priorities for family meals, by region, January 2020
                                                          • Important Attributes for Each Meal

                                                            • Health and convenience are top priorities for all meals
                                                              • Figure 37: Mealtime attributes, January 2020
                                                            • Parents have different secondary values for each meal
                                                              • Figure 38: Correspondence analysis – Symmetrical Map – mealtime attributes, January 2020
                                                            • Breakfast priorities
                                                              • Figure 39: Lunchables Brunchables examples, April-June 2019
                                                            • Weekday breakfast is different than weekend breakfast
                                                              • Dinner priorities
                                                              • What’s for Lunch?

                                                                • Packing lunch provides parents with control and assurance
                                                                    • Figure 40: Lunch choices, January 2020
                                                                  • School lunch consistency
                                                                    • Figure 41: Lunch choices by day, January 2020
                                                                  • Household income effects choice in school lunch type
                                                                    • Figure 42: Lunch choices, by income, January 2020
                                                                  • Times of transition push parents to trust their kids
                                                                    • Figure 43: Lunch choices, by age of children, January 2020
                                                                    • Figure 44: Yoplait Packing 30 Go Gurt commercial, July 2019
                                                                • Are Mealtimes Stressful?

                                                                  • For most, mealtime isn’t stressful, but enjoyable
                                                                    • Figure 45: Family mealtime – cooking stress, January 2020
                                                                  • Dads can’t take the heat
                                                                    • Figure 46: Mealtimes as a stressor, by gender, January 2020
                                                                  • Older children motivate mealtime compromises
                                                                    • Figure 47: Mealtimes as a stressor, by age of children, January 2020
                                                                    • Figure 48: Our family eats dinner together during the week, by age of children, January 2020
                                                                • What Parents Do in a Pinch

                                                                  • Mealtime resources
                                                                    • Figure 49: Sources of inspiration, January 2020
                                                                  • Moms look for quick and easy, while dads rely more on their partner/spouse
                                                                    • Figure 50: Sources of inspiration, by gender, January 2020
                                                                  • Black parents are confident and creative in the kitchen
                                                                    • Figure 51: Sources of inspiration, by race and Hispanic Origin, January 2020
                                                                • Kids’ Mealtime Responsibilities

                                                                  • The majority of kids contribute to mealtime
                                                                    • Figure 52: Family mealtime – family food prep, January 2020
                                                                  • Moms are independent while dads get kids involved
                                                                    • Figure 53: Family mealtime – family food prep, by gender, January 2020
                                                                  • Kids of Asian parents help less in the kitchen
                                                                    • Figure 54: Family mealtime – family food prep, by race and Hispanic Origin, January 2020
                                                                  • The older the child, the more mealtime preparation and cleanup responsibility
                                                                    • Figure 55: Family mealtime – family food prep, by age of children, January 2020
                                                                • Treating the Kids

                                                                  • Parents want kids to have a say in snack choices
                                                                    • Figure 56: Mealtime attributes – snacks, January 2020
                                                                  • Nostalgia will win out for Millennial parents when treating their children
                                                                    • Figure 57: General Mills DunkAroos announcement, February 2020
                                                                    • Figure 58: I like treating/rewarding my kids with special foods, by generation, January 2020
                                                                • Trying New Foods

                                                                  • Kids are satisfied with consistency
                                                                    • Figure 59: Family mealtime – trying new foods, January 2020
                                                                  • Parents of picky eaters are reactive
                                                                    • Figure 60: Family mealtime – trying new foods, by my kid is a picky eater, January 2020
                                                                    • Figure 61: Perdue Chicken Plus example, February 2020
                                                                    • Figure 62: Picky Eater PeekaBoo advertisement, November 2019
                                                                  • Bitter and sour flavors are to blame for younger picky eaters
                                                                    • Figure 63: I insist my kids try the food they’re served, by age of children, January 2020
                                                                    • Figure 64: My kids are happy with the food we serve at dinner, by age of children, January 2020
                                                                • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                  • Data sources
                                                                    • Consumer survey data
                                                                      • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                        • Further Analysis – Correspondence Analysis
                                                                          • Figure 65: Correspondence analysis – principal map – mealtime attributes, January 2020
                                                                          • Figure 66: Mealtime attributes, January 2020
                                                                        • Methodology
                                                                          • Abbreviations and terms

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