Changing Eating Habits

Changing Eating Habits

Changing Eating Habits. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.
What do you find is the most important thing when it comes to mealtime? Most people say convenience. Whether that is a simple recipe or a breeze through the drive up window we American’s like our food convenient. Members of the National Potato Council and the US Potato Board heard from Harry Balzer a widely-known industry expert on people’s eating habits.

BALZER: We were accustomed for 50 years to people buying more and more meals at restaurants. What happened? This is not just today; this has been going on for some time. As a matter of fact restaurants could be used two ways, one way they’d go out sit down and have a meal – that’s not growing. Matter of fact anyone who says American’s are eating out more just doesn’t know the data. Using restaurants, that was true up until 2000 but it was all for takeout. And then those numbers crossed in 1989 that’s when the country said look it’s no longer about packaged goods and Jello, this is about packaged meals. And supermarkets got on board and convenience stores got on board and everyone starts offering meals – meals because that’s what I want.

He says the year that all that changed was the year 2000 and they still have not been able to pinpoint the reason but he says they can easily mark the beginning of the food industry upward trend.

BALZER: The major agent of change in this country was female employment. This has cost us the way we eat in this country more than anything else I can identify and that’s the percent of the females over the age of 16 that participate in the workforce from 1950 to today. You see the nice rise in that through 2000, the restaurant industry benefitted more from this than anybody else. I’m sure French fries benefitted from this than anybody else, I’m sure hamburgers did, I’m sure soft drinks did and then it came to an end.

Balzer says they are finding that women from this age group are still working and some even more today than before but he says the key factor in this decline is…

BALZER: It’s their daughters. Younger women are the ones causing this number to flatten out. They’re not working like their mothers, the stay at home mom trend is true. It’s not the housewife of the 50’s but it’s the stay at home mom.

But he says there is another factor in these trends.

BALZER: The other is the aging of the population. The aging of the population does not help. It helps the health industry. It doesn’t help restaurants, the aging of the population is another one that a drag on the restaurant industry but the one that affects each and everyone of us everyday is food prices. Everybody is affected by this. Food prices are below what they were a year ago but there are two components here. The two primary components are what does it cost for food to buy at a supermarket, what’s the increases at a restaurant?

Our dollars are buying more today at the supermarket than they do at restaurants so we are seeing more of a trend to people preparing more meals in the home. More tomorrow with Harry Balzer.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Northwest Ag Information Network.

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