Snack foods are increasingly serving as full meals, suggests new data from market research group NPD Group, and it’s because of “smaller households and people eating alone.” Last year, the average American ate a snack for a meal 191 times, compared to 167 times in 2011.
What’s more, eating alone is so commonplace that it has become, in the words of The Washington Post, “the most American thing there is.”
A major factor in our solo-leaning dining habits, says NPD’s Darren Seifer, is the changing American household. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, single-person households have increased from 17 percent in 1970 to 27 percent in 2012. In 1960, only 10 percent of adults 25 and older had never been married, whereas that number has risen to 20 percent.
And during our lengthier periods of singledom, Americans have increasingly turned to single-serve items to satisfy hunger, even if that means a bag of potato chips for dinner. “It’s hard to shop and cook for one,” dietician Jill Weisenberger told MarketWatch. “[Snacks] are individually packaged and often have a very long shelf life. That, and an awful lot of people do not have cooking skills.”