The hunt for ‘the fourth meal’

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A scene from Kazoo's recent 'Food for Thought' roundtable discussion.

In this day and age we are all leading fragmented lives with the majority of us having minimal time to do a regular weekly shop or follow the standard three-meals-a-day norm. In the second of our Food for Thought blog post series, we look at how consumers’ eating patterns are changing and what this means for brands.

Two key trends discussed during our recent Food for Thought roundtable were health and wellbeing, and the growth of the ‘Fourth Meal’ culture. For those who are not aware of the Fourth Meal trend, let me enlighten you.

The Fourth Meal celebrates consumers’ prolific love for snacking. Simply put, it is an amended version of the standard three meal norm, with an additional fourth meal thrown in, which is more of a small snack than a substantial meal. It could be a mid-afternoon salad, a post gym nibble or a late supper before bed.

Interestingly though, millennials are the generation that are most likely to snack four times a day, yet they are also the generation that have been labeled the most health conscious ever. Is eating little and often the new norm? And is the fourth meal part of a new health and wellness trend?

According to recent studies nine out of ten millennials consider healthy eating to be one of the key pillars of wellness. In addition, over 65% of adults born after 1978 have sought advice at some point about their dietary choices. This number, and the number of nutritionists in practice, was far lower in previous years.

Overall too, the consumers eating patterns are changing from three set meals to on-the-go snacks. Eating a little and eating often seems to be the trend of the year. Or decade. It may be here to stay. Although the trend seems to have been triggered more on account of people’s busy lives and work schedules than anything else, it is a welcome change from a fitness perspective as well.

Healthy eating?

But, ironically, it is the lifestyle habits that millennials choose to adopt which are worryingly detrimental to their health. The new age addiction to technology, which sees 87% of millennials using between two to three tech devices at least once a day, has led to an alarming increase in sedentary behaviour.

As a result, millennials are becoming far less active and are more obese than earlier generations. The proportion of young adults 18–29 years old who were obese more than tripled from 8% in 1971–1974 to 24% in 2003–2004, with nearly two-thirds of young millennials not taking sufficient time out from leisure activities to engage in physical activity each week.

In order to thrive within this growing sector, brands need to gain a better understanding and knowledge of how diets are evolving according to different lifestyle habits and food intolerances. Capitalising on consumers’ use of technology and the growing popularity of fitness apps will also help brands to leverage a stronger share of voice among key audiences and build stronger brand affinity beyond the supermarket shelves.

Delilah Pollard is lifestyle director at Kazoo

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