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What generation shifts mean for predicting food trends

Food preferences can change drastically between generations, and industry professionals need to know their customers in order to effectively market to them. 

4 min read

Consumer InsightsFood

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Food preferences can change drastically between a generation, and food industry professionals from chefs to the largest manufacturers need to know who their customer is in order to effectively market to them. 

But generational tastes and shifts can be hard to keep track of, as new food trends from plant-based to emerging global cuisines can attract different customers depending on how they’re presented. 

There are scores of questions that food makers and marketers need to address as these generational shifts play out: Are millennials still the foodie generation? Is Gen Z catching up? What role do Gen X and baby boomers play in the food trend landscape?

That’s why Datassential developed a report to dive into the changing consumer landscape, using its Consumer Preferences database to see how preferences have shifted over time. 

Here are some of the highlights: 

Sauces, spices drive food trend awareness.

Spices and sauces set the stage for consumers to become more comfortable with new foods and cuisines. From kewpie mayo and yuzu to adobo and tamarind, sauces, spices and flavors are moving faster than ever before on Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle (MAC), and these should be the first move additions for any food company that wants to experiment with new trends. For consumers, these flavors – no matter what part of the globe they come from – help bridge the gap in the introduction to new cuisines. Flavors, sauces and spices are also continuing to gain the most overall awareness across demographic groups.

In particular, Gen Z’s accelerating appetite for inception-level or early-stage trends suggests they are leading their older peers when it comes to trying new trends and have awareness of many before they become more mainstream. This generation, which was born between 1997 and 2010, is expected to become a key focus for food makers aimed at capturing consumer attention with unique flavors. 

Don’t count out older consumers

Boomers, born from 1943 to 1964, are catching up with younger consumers in terms of food trend awareness across nearly all categories.  Boomers are a group for the food industry to reconsider focusing on as they appear to be using their retirement money and time to indulge a passion for food. Trending southern, eastern European and Jewish items are most well-known from Boomers, and therefore may be a perfect place to experiment with innovative flavors for older clientele. 

Millennials may not stick with food trends

Millennials, dubbed the “foodie generation,” are aware of new food trends but aren’t necessarily loyal to those trends once they experience them. While having a new food product get noticed on a menu or a supermarket shelf is half the battle, a sole focus on this generation, born between 1982 and 1996, may not offer desired brand loyalty. 

On the other hand, boomers and Gen Xers, born from 1965 to 1981, tend to take more time to become aware of new trends, but once they do, they rate their affinity—% of consumers who love/like—higher than millennials. Because of this Gen X tends to be a key demographic to focus on for “proliferation-stage” trends, or those trends that have been adapted for mainstream appeal. 

While consumers of all ages are more aware of food trends with the proliferation of food programming and social media, it’s worth it to take stock of the changing tastes of each generation to ensure that each new item on a restaurant table or supermarket shelf speaks to a particular consumer. Knowing your audience is more important than ever. 

Samantha Des Jardins is the content marketing manager at Datassential.

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