US consumers may appear to be creatures of habit in their eating patterns but the foods they eat today have a modern twist that is influenced by a host of factors like ethnicity, age or generational group and health or social consciousness. 

For instance, a burger has held the crown as the top food ordered at US restaurants for decades, but this year that burger may well be a plant-based burger, according to this year’s edition of The NPD Group’s Eating Patterns in America, which is an annual compilation of the company’s daily tracking of U.S. consumption behavior.  

“For 34 years The NPD Group has been tracking eating patterns in America and from a topline view many of the same foods are being consumed today as they were three decades ago,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “But go a little deeper and you see that all aspects of our eating patterns — the who, what, when, where, how, and why —are changing.” 

Here are some quick takes from this year’s Eating Patterns in America:

  • 16% of consumers regularly use plant-based alternatives such as almond milk, tofu and veggie burgers; 89% of these consumers do not consider themselves vegan or vegetarian.
  • 14% of in-home eating occasions included at least one item that required no preparation compared to only 11% of occasions in 2013.
  • Visits to quick service restaurants have increased 630 million visits since 2014, while total visits to restaurants have declined more than 700 million visits.
  • From 2017 to 2020 the average annual growth rate for digital restaurant orders is forecast at 22%.
  • One in five adults try to manage a health condition with their food and beverage choices.

“This past year we’ve seen emerging new eating trends that will impact both the food and beverage and restaurant industries in the years to come,” says Portalatin. “Food manufacturers and restaurant operators will need to understand how these trends will impact their businesses in order to stay ahead of the curve.”