CHICAGO — Eating patterns throughout the next decade will be influenced by the behaviors that occur with aging consumers and differences in preferences from one generation to another, according to NPD’s "A Look into The Future of Eating" study.

The top-five food groups expected to increase in consumption (based on the impact of age dynamics, trend momentum — prior and current eating patterns — and population growth) are center-of-plate proteins (i.e. meat entrées), salty/savory snacks, easy meals, sweet snacks/desserts and heat-and eat-breakfasts.

NPD’s study looks at how Generation Z, born 1990 to present; Y (Millennials), born 1976 to 1989; X, born 1965 to 1975; Younger Boomers, 1956 to 1964; Older Boomers, 1946 to 1955; and Generation Silent, 1930 to 1945, eat today, and how they will eat 10 years from now.

Over the next decade, people in Generation Y are expected to be primary contributors to the forecasted growth in consumption of all these food groups, with the exception of heat-and-eat breakfasts. Future kids less than 10 years of age are expected to have more influence on consumption of this food group compared to the other foods.

"As the different generations age over the next decade, corresponding changes in their life stage will have a major impact on what and how they eat," said Ann Hanson, author of the new study and director of NPD product development. "Understanding the effect of aging on the various generations’ eating habits and preferences helps food and beverage companies develop long-range plans in terms of their overall product portfolio, positioning and innovation."