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SURVEY FINDS CONVENIENCE IS KEY TO AMERICAN FOOD FAVORITES

 NEW YORK, April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent survey found that convenience is the key to Americans' favorite foods. The top five growth foods between 1986 and 1992 were pasta, chips, turkey sandwiches, cereal and soft drinks -- all convenient foods for consumers to prepare. These were among the findings in a study released today of 2,000 households by the NPD Group, a leading market research firm that examines American eating habits and attitudes.
 According to this research, more than 90 percent of Americans expressed concern about serving foods high in fat. But their diets don't necessarily match their interest in healthy eating. While chips and soft drinks ranked as growth foods, nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables and bread were among the five foods that experienced the greatest decline.
 "What we often find is that people want to eat healthy. They may even change their eating habits for a while," said Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group. "But typically, they return to their original behavior."
 Tracking the growth pattern of foods such as oat bran and rice cakes demonstrates this fact. Consumption of rice cakes reached its peak in 1988. But by 1992, consumption had dropped by almost half. Meanwhile, consumption of foods deemed "off limits" or "in moderation," such as beef and eggs, are stabilizing. Ice cream consumption is beginning to rise.
 Among the five growth categories, one food stands out as increasing among all age groups -- pasta. Pasta consumption has increased by 10 eatings per year since 1986. That is, consumers ate 10 more dishes of pasta in 1992 than they did in 1986. And they're eating it more often both at home and in restaurants. Restaurant consumption of pasta rose 20 percent since 1988, and in-home consumption increased 18 percent.
 When you look at consumption among specific age groups, growth is everywhere. "We examined pasta consumption among 13 different age groups and found consumers in every category eating more pasta today than they did five or six years ago," said Harry Balzer. "Convenience is certainly part of that growth. It doesn't hurt that pasta is also considered quite good for you."
 Children and young adults are the biggest pasta consumers. In fact, 89 percent of children between the ages of six and 12 eat pasta at least once every two weeks, 85 percent of women age 18 to 34 eat it as frequently, as do 82 percent of men in the same age group.
 Within the pasta category, nearly all varieties have grown since 1988. The greatest increase has been in the macaroni category which rose 33 percent, followed by lasagna, up 31 percent, and noodles, 21 percent. The only decrease was found in pasta salad which declined just one percent since 1988.
 Both lunch and dinner have grown as popular pasta meal times, each rising 20 percent since 1988. Pasta is most often eaten as a main dish, 72 percent of the time. But it has risen in popularity as both a main dish and a side dish, 27 percent and 11 percent, respectively, since 1988.
 "Our research shows that convenience is clearly a driving force behind what Americans choose to eat. If it happens to be healthy too, such as pasta, it's simply value-added. It means consumers can have their convenience and feel good about what they serve their families," concluded Balzer.
 The NPD Group provides marketing research services to a broad range of industries, including food, health care, automotive and consumer electronics.
 Mr. Balzer was one of five panelists who addressed a group of dietitians and media professionals at "Pasta for Life," a nutritional symposium on complex carbohydrates sponsored by the National Pasta Association.
 The National Pasta Association is the trade association for the U.S. pasta industry. The Association works to promote pasta consumption and acts as a clearinghouse on nutrition issues concerning pasta and complex carbohydrates.
 -0- 4/21/93
 /CONTACT: Katie Sullivan, or Heidi Hovland, 212-265-9150, for The National Pasta Association/


CO: The National Pasta Association ST: New York IN: FOD SU:

LD -- NY127 -- 9057 04/21/93 19:09 EDT
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Date:Apr 21, 1993
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