Jan 26, 2012 • By

He knows what you eat

What we eat in America keeps Harry Balzer extremely busy. And it’s made him the go-to guy for insight into the trends the food industry finds extremely valuable.

That’s because he knows what you buy, what you eat and where you eat it.

Balzer presented The NPD Group’s 26th Annual “Eating Patterns in America” report during his annual visit to General Mills today. He’s the chief industry analyst and vice president of NPD, a New York market research firm.

One trend that he carried throughout his talk was the question Balzer says Americans are asking themselves more and more: “How can I eat without cooking?”

He explains that in this video interview after his presentation.

He said it’s no surprise that foods like yogurt, bars, chips, vegetables and frozen foods are popular with the “no cooking” crowd. And not just as snacks. Sometimes, they’re main dishes.

As I think about my family, had I filled out an NPD food diary last year, I’d say we’re continuing to eat at home more often than we eat out compared to previous years. Though, a busy on-the-go lifestyle sometimes gives us no choice. As a result, we’re also definitely in that “snacks as meals” crowd too when we don’t feel like cooking.

Yogurt as breakfast also is catching on, in my house and in NPD’s research.

And, yogurt is NPD’s “Food of the decade.” Balzer reported that 32 percent of Americans say they have yogurt at least once in a two-week period, up from 18 percent a decade ago.

“Of all the changes that have occurred in the American diet over the last 10 years, nothing has changed more than the consumption of yogurt,” said Balzer.

I found myself nodding a lot as Balzer detailed some of the most popular foods we eat, overall – sandwiches, vegetables, salty snacks and bread to name just a few.

He closed his presentation by saying the factors that drive consumer behavior with the foods they buy and eat never really change.

“The real drivers are habits. They are so, so hard to change.”