in 2001. In 2001, the top five breakfasts were, in order, cold cereal; eggs or omelets; bread; hot cereal; and pancakes, waffles, or French toast. In 2011, the top five breakfasts were, again in order, cold cereal; eggs or omelets; hot cereal; pancakes, waffles, or French toast; and bread. According to Seifer, pancakes, waffles, and French toast have moved up to the number four spot because those products are being delivered in more easy-to-prepare fashions, such as instant or frozen.
The same stability has been observed for lunch and dinner. NPD data indicate that the top five lunches consumed in the United States in 2001, again based on annual eatings per capita, were, in order, sandwiches (including burgers), soup, poultry, pizza, and salads. In 2011, the list and order were the same. The top five dinners consumed in the United States in 2001 were poultry, sandwiches (including burgers), beef, Italian dishes, and homemade or mix “variety.” In 2011, preferences shifted, but only slightly, to sandwiches (including burgers) as the top dinner, followed by poultry, beef, Italian dinners, and pizza. Seifer explained that as with breakfast pancakes, waffles, and French toast, part of the reason for pizza moving up into the top five list is that it is being sold in an easy-to-prepare frozen form.
The slight shifts in consumer behavior around frozen foods suggest that underlying consumer behaviors can change, albeit slowly. Changes take years, if not decades. If one were to examine just the past several years, NPD data do not show much change in the percentage of meals with a main dish coming in frozen form. In looking back to the mid-1980s, however, there has been a noticeable increase in frozen items being served at all three main meals. For breakfast, 4 percent of main dishes served in 1984 were purchased in frozen form. That figure doubled, to 8 percent, by 2011. For lunch, 7 percent of main dishes served in 1984 were purchased in frozen form. That figure also doubled, to 14 percent in 2011. For dinner, 15 percent of main dishes served in 1984 were frozen. By 2011, that figure had increased to 23 percent.
The growing preference for foods that do not need to be cooked is corroborated with other NPD data on the top 10 fastest-growing in-home foods and beverages. Based on point change in percentage of Americans consuming a product at least once in a 2-week period between 2001 and 2011, the top 10 fastest-growing in-home foods and beverages were yogurt (15), bars (10), chips (10), bottled water (10), nuts and seeds (9), pizza (8), fresh fruit (7), poultry sandwich (7), specialty Italian (7), and cheese (6). Seifer noted that fresh fruit is on the list because of changing demographics; it is popular among older adults as well as among children. A common characteristic of these foods is that they require very little, if any, preparation.