Newswise — Never before has the availability of food"and the myriad choices"been more convenient. Yet amidst this unprecedented convenience, many traditional selections are leading U.S. consumers eating patterns according to the latest issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the not-for-profit international scientific society Institute of Food Technologists.

In the August cover story, "What, When, and Where American's Eat: 2003," studies show nearly eight out of every ten meals were eaten at home last year. Traditional favorites spaghetti, pizza and steak were the most frequently eaten dinners. Sandwiches rule at lunch. Speed and ease of preparation is the top trend to making meal selections.

Last year, for the first time in many years, grocery and retail food sales exceeded food service revenues, confirming that fewer people are eating out; a rate of 18 percent in 2002. At the same time, the article reveals that families ate together an average of four nights per week, up from three nights the previous year. More than one-third of families ate their main meal together every night, an increase over 2001.

All is not lost for restaurants, according to the article. Despite restaurant traffic falling two percent in the first quarter of 2003, the casual dining segment is seeing modest growth. Additionally, 14 percent of customers say they plan to spend more at full-service restaurants in the next few months and 12 percent say they expect to spend more at fast-food restaurants. Burgers, fries, Mexican and pizza are the most frequently ordered foods regardless of gender. Asian restaurant chains lead the list of U.S. sales trend gainers, a whopping 27 percent, followed by steak chains at 19 percent. Mexican, sandwich and Italian chain sales are all up more than 10 percent.

When it comes to food labels, "fresh" remains American's more important claim.

The article references surveys confirming that portion sizes have increased substantially since the 1970s, and daily caloric intake per person is up 24 percent over the same period. Cheese consumption has grown nearly 300 percent in the last half century and, while down from 1950 levels, fluid milk consumption grew nearly 10 percent by volume last year. In 2002, one in ten meals was eaten on the run and 25 percent of take-out meals were consumed in the car, 22 percent at work.

For more on what, when and where Americans are eating, see the August issue of Food Technology online at:

Food Technology is published monthly by the IFT, providing news and analysis of the development, use, quality, safety, and regulation of food sources, products, and processes.

Founded in 1939, the Institute of Food Technologists is a not-for-profit international scientific society with 28,000 members working in food science, technology and related professions in industry, academia and government. As the society for food science and technology, IFT brings sound science to the public discussion of food issues. For more on IFT, see

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Food Technology Magazine, Aug-2003 (Aug-2003)