Snacks now account for one in five eating occasions in the United States, while main meals tend to consist of fewer items, according to a new report from The NPD Group, a market research organization.  In its new report entitled “Snacking in America 2012,” breakfast is the most common meal, accounting for 28 percent of all eating occassions, followed by dinner (27 percent), and lunch (25 percent), but snacks are not far behind at 20 percent.

“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, an NPD food and beverage analyst.  Seifer added that the reasons people choose particular snacks vary according to demographics, moods, and attitudes.  “Food manufacturers and retails will need to align their business strategies with the appropriate consumer behaviors in order to capitalize on consumers penchant for snacking,” he said.

The NPD research shows that U.S. consumers are less likely to skip meals than they were five years ago, but they are more likely to describe breakfast, lunch, and dinner as “mini-meals.”  As variety at traditional mealtimes has narrowed, snacking in between meals has increased.  Over half of Americans (53 percent) snacked two to three times a day, NPD found, and those with the healthiest overall diets were most likely to snack frequently.