Consumer Eating Habits Seen Impacting Kitchen Design, Experts Note

Consumer Eating Habits Seen Impacting Kitchen Design, Experts Note

A recent issue of American Demographics magazine spells out some of these expected changes. Over the next 25 years, the magazine notes, the U.S. will become more ethnically diverse, more single and older. By 2025, 40% of the population of this country will be non-white, up from 31% today.

Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' notes that black and Hispanic households are more likely to prepare meals at home than white ones; Black households spend 9.6% of their income on food at home and Hispanics spend 10.7% on food at home, compared to just 7.5% spent on that by white households.

Americans increasingly prefer meals they can make quickly and eat on the run. About 44% of weekday meals today are made in less than 30 minutes. In fact, 12% of meals today feature a frozen dish, up from 9% four years ago, according to the latest food industry statistics.

Time-starved working single parents are also growing in number. In 1970, there were 3 million single mothers, compared with 10 million today. In 1970, there were fewer than 400,000 single fathers; today, there are two million. And even families with two parents increasingly have both parents working.

Food companies will increasingly be producing foods that are frozen, meant to be microwaved, and able to be eaten with one hand. Families will eat and surf the Internet at the same time. In reality, that's already largely the case: Half of the kids surveyed last November by Wharf Research said they eat and surf the Internet sometimes, and of those who surf daily, 65% eat while they surf.

Americans also are increasingly coming to understand the link between food and health. Four of the leading causes of death heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are affected directly by diet. A study by the International Food Information Council found that 75% of those polled had changed their diets in the past five years for health reasons.
This will mean more emphasis on fresh ingredients, and on options such as steaming.

Foods will also become more diverse, and spices and different preparation methods will be important. Wharf Research's study of teens found that 86% are familiar with sushi, 87% know what quesadillas are, 45% are familiar with pesto, and 16% have tried samosas. Spice storage will grow in importance to consumers, especially as ethnic diversity grows and TV chefs introduce international cuisines.

Safety will also be a major concern, driven by headlines about bioterrorism, genetically engineered "frankenfoods," "Mad Cow" disease and the like. It is estimated that seven out of 10 consumers have access to a farmer's market and one in three buys from there.

Also, food packaging will contain safety measures, such as color-coded stickers that change colors after "use by" dates or safe temperature ranges are passed. Expect more demand for non-porous countertop and food-prep surfaces, more interest in items like water filters and purifiers, and more attention paid to clean-up when considering materials.