U.S. consumers are less likely to skip their breakfast, lunch and dinner meal times now than they were five years ago, but these meals are often described as mini-meals rather than full meals, according to market research firm The NPD Group. A recent NPD food market research report finds that although Americans still carve out main meal times, the number of items consumed at each main meal has declined over time and consumers snack in-between meals often.

The average American today has 4.1 food and beverage items at dinner compared with 5.3 items in 1985, and dinner is the only meal in which a majority of the meal occasions are considered by consumers to be a full or complete meal, according to NPD's Snacking in America 2012 report.

The report, which examines long-term attitudes and behaviors about snacking as well as snack selection drivers, finds that snack occasions fill the gaps between traditional main meals with morning showing multiple eating occasions. One out of every five eating occasion in the U.S. is a snack and more than half of Americans (53 percent) are snacking two or three times a day.

"Our frequent snacking is a result of our hectic lifestyles, need for convenience, increasing desire to eat healthier foods, and simply to enjoy what we eat," said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. "There is, however, a complexity to snacking behaviors based on demographics, needs states and attitudes. Food manufacturers and retailers will need to align their business strategies with the appropriate consumer behaviors in order to capitalize on consumers' penchant for snacking. "

Read more about trends and statistics.

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