Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I read daily articles about the growth in snack foods and our “grazing” lifestyle. Last week I learned that the average smartphone user spends 2.7 hours per day connecting, twice as much time as they spend eating. For me it validates: Welcome to the new age of “Portafuel.”

Read On:
Major food companies like Kraft, General Mills, Quaker Oats, etc. in recognition of America’s on-the-go lifestyles have been introducing numerous morning snacks under the guise of “healthy halo” umbrellas. Kraft claims a MilkBite granola bar has the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk. General Mills introduced this past year Fiber One bars (90 to 140 calories) as well as their Yoplait Greek yogurt multipacks (twice as much protein as regular yogurt). Quaker Oat’s “Real Medley” instant oatmeal cups with fruit & nuts will be coming to your shelves soon. The restaurant industry has also jumped on the bandwagon to capture their fair share of consumers eating their breakfast in stages, on the run. McDonald’s breakfast menu now include snacks (e.g., smoothies), Starbucks has expanded their menu to include numerous items that compliment their coffee offerings, etc. NPD the research company reported that 60 percent of restaurant growth over the past few years is attributed to the breakfast daypart.

Therefore my query is what is driving morning munchies? Commuting? The most recent data I could find dates back to a New York Times article, Commuter Nation, September 2011. The median American leaves for work between 7:30 AM and 7:59 AM with an average commute of 25.1 minutes, one way! I work out of my home, so my commute is less than five seconds from my bed to my computer. Therefore, extreme commuters, people according to the U.S. Census Bureau (3% of American adult workers) who actually commute more than 90 minutes each way, contribute to our median. Throw in the time needed to prepare for work or prepare your family for their day, who has time for a sit-down breakfast anymore?

NPD projects that morning snacks will continue to grow faster than afternoon or evening snacks through 2018. However, when I read that Nielsen reported sales of all snack foods hit $16.64 billion last year, up 3.3 percent from the previous year, I still believe snacking is a 24/7 affair with Americans. Commuting is one contributing factor, but I also hypnotize, technology is now a significant contributing factor. Remember my original blink: Smartphone users spend 2.7 hours connecting (phone calls, texting, social networking) via their gizmos (note: This excludes time spent gaming and using apps). That is twice as much time as they spend eating.

Who will have time to sit down for a real meal in the future? Welcome to the new age of “Portafuel.”


  1. Time to mandate "slow food". I used to commute over an hour each way, and coffee and "snacks" were always stocked in my vehicle. But my snacks were bite-sized veggies (carrots) and fruits (raisins, apples, sectioned oranges, etc). The trend toward "heather" snacks beat doughnuts, but are little better in the fat category (in many cases). Sadly Americans will continue to consume "convenience snacks" as opposed to bite-sized fruit and vegetables.

  2. Sit down breakfast? What is that? GM and Yoplait have gotten a hold of my portafuel dollars. Usually yogurt or granola in the car on the way to work in between checking my phone for overnight Facebook updates and latest and greatest sports updates. The Millennial Generations version of a sit down breakfast.

  3. Having worked at NPD and knowing something about this, there are a few things at play here: 1)If you are a restaurant and growth stalls, what better way to try to build sales than building on a day-part that was ignored 2)Harry Balzer always said the biggest technological influence for QSR was the automatic car window 3)Soooo, what if a restaurant offers ordering through a mobile app/online and pick up at the drive through?