Food Opportunities In Dinner Distractions

March 19, 2010

Food Opportunities In Dinner Distractions

Supermarket and CPG executives, like most other families, have seen family dinners trumped by television shows or movies as kids race to the set with their food. Or as parents they too have watched programs at the table rather than talk—or even pay much attention to the food they’re eating.  And what’s with all the flat screens now in America’s kitchens?

Unless people are watching cooking shows and upping their game at food buying, food prep and assembling great meals, all of this TV and video viewing is one major distraction from the healthful, deliberate, conscientious eating we say we want to practice. It draws our attention away from the way we’re fueling our bodies and our futures.

All of which raises questions.  If a person is engrossed in home entertainment, what should that meal look like? Should portions be smaller? Should foods be hand-held? Should food be cold rather than hot to avoid burns? Should it be neat rather than messy to avoid spills?

And how about plates, utensils and trays? Should they be conformed differently to be neater and safer? Should stain-resistant cloths be laid out, just in case, to protect clothes, furniture, or a nearby laptop or PDA?

What brings this to mind? The NPD Group Dinnertime Mealscape Study shows that nearly four in ten Americans (35.8%) watch TV shows or videos while eating dinner. That’s more than the 30.6% who say they talk with family or friends during dinner, and the 26.8% who do nothing but eat or drink at the time.

When eating dinner at home, consumers are most likely to be in their kitchen (31.3%), in the dining room (24.4%) or the family living room (26.0%), NPD statistics show.

So this is the dinnertime landscape across the nation. What will retailers and food manufacturers do to address this trend—to keep us on a safe, neat, healthful eating course when our minds are often busy with the escapism, or entertainment, or information seeking of TV or video viewing while dining?  We would like to see some science attach to this issue, and some old-fashioned inventiveness to make dinner a better place, even when we’re distracted.