Magazine article Amber Waves

Purchases of Foods by Convenience Type Driven by Prices, Income, and Advertising

Magazine article Amber Waves

Purchases of Foods by Convenience Type Driven by Prices, Income, and Advertising

Article excerpt

The term "convenience food" was first coined by Charles Mortimer of General Foods in the 1950s in response to Americans' desire for foods that were "easy to buy, store, open, prepare, and eat." Such demands from consumers brought instant rice, Tang, and TV dinners to supermarkets in the 1950s. Today, these foods share shelf space with canned spaghetti and instant soups, along with rôtisserie chickens and kale salads in the deli section. Snacks and meals prepared outside the home by restaurants and other eating places are a further step along the convenience continuum, eliminating a trip to the grocery store and cleanup time. A recent ERS analysis of data from 1999 to 2010 found that-as with many goods-changes in prices and income were the most important drivers of consumers' purchases of foods in grocery stores and at eating places. Changes in advertising expenditures were an additional influence on purchases of fast foods.

For the study, the researchers grouped restaurant meals and snacks into fast food and sit-down eating places. Grocery store foods were categorized into four groups based on the amount of time the food saves households in meal preparation, from least to most convenient:

* Basic ingredients-consist of raw or minimally processed foods, such as milk and fresh meats;

* Complex ingredients-usually contain more than one farm commodity, such as mayonnaise and bread;

* Ready-to-cook (RTC) meals and snacks-require water and/or heat before consuming, such as canned soups; and

* Ready-to-eat (RTE) meals and snacks-require no preparation beyond opening a container, such as refrigerated dishes, yogurt, and candy. …

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