The market research organization has been tracking trends in Americans’ eating habits for the past three decades in its report National Eating Trends.
President of The NPD Group's North American food and beverage unit Mark East said: "The fast and hectic pace of the lives we lead has had the single greatest impact on this country's eating behaviors. It's clear by the changes we've observed over the past 30 years that the Google generation wants things now."
In particular, the organization said that 72 percent of main meals were prepared at home from scratch in 1980, compared to 59 percent today. And the number of food items used to make those meals has declined too – from 4.44 to 3.5.
Part of this can be attributed to increased interest in prepared and frozen meals, “assembling a meal rather than preparing it”, NPD said.
"Americans have an ever increasing need for convenience when it comes to eating,” said East. “We fully expect this trend to continue as ready-to-eat meals prepared outside the home and eaten in-home, fresh, and frozen foods are all forecasted to grow notably in the next decade."
The market researcher also found that the use of slow cookers and grills has increased, and projects that the use of these appliances for food preparation will continue to grow. The number of households using a slow cooker at least once in a two-week period rose by 67 percent from the 1980s to 2010; microwave usage has more than doubled, and more than a third of American households use a grill to prepare a meal at least once in every two-week period, The NPD Group said.
East said: “Saving time motivated many of the trends we've captured in National Eating Trends over the past thirty years. As our lives get busier and busier, saving time will continue to be an increasingly important factor in deciding what, when, where, and how we eat."