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While 76 percent of all meals are prepared at home, according to NPDFoodworld, a division of The NPD Group, Americans are spending less time in the kitchen preparing those meals than ever.

Preparation times are decreasing. For the year ending February 2002, half of all meals were prepared in 30 minutes or less.

There are fewer dishes per meal. Nearly half of all main meals are one-dish affairs. At-home suppers that included at least one side dish fell from 66 percent in 1991 to 56 percent in 2002.

People aren’t eating dessert. Americans are dropping desserts from their in-home meals. Only 14 percent of supper meals now include a dessert, down seven percentage points from 1990.

And, out of home alternatives are gaining, with fewer meals being prepared from scratch. The total number of annual main meals prepared and eaten at home has decreased from 702 in 1991 to 651 today, while meals purchased away from home increased from 184 to 209 during the same period. And, 35 percent of main meals in 2002 were prepared completely from scratch. This is down from 41.3 percent a decade ago.
KC's View:
These numbers certainly put the challenge out there for retailers and manufacturers, which now have to find strategies and products that will appeal to these shifting trends.