It’s official: Millennials have been universally dubbed “The Foodie Generation.”
The culture surrounding food is changing as today’s youth is placing more and more value on exciting, fresh, gourmet fare. Recent surveys show that 42 percent of Millennials eat at fine dining restaurants at least once a month (compared to about 20 percent of Baby Boomers), and 87 percent will splurge on a nice dinner out, even when they don’t have a lot of money to spend.
The old adage “you are what you eat” has never been truer—a taste for innovative and high-quality cuisine has become a defining factor of Millennials’ identities. Food marketers take note: the way to a Millennial’s heart is through their stomach.
In this three-part blog series, we’ll explore the new food culture surrounding Millennials, how this shift is impacting brands within the food industry, and how different brands are responding. Food marketers will gain greater insights into the preferences of the world’s largest cohort, which brands are successfully connecting with them, and how to position food brands for success with Millennials.
There are a few different explanations for this modern focus on hip, handcrafted eats. First of all, Millennials are a well-traveled group: they’ve been exposed to more culturally diverse influences than generations before them. Because of their knowledge and experience, they seek out authentic ethnic cuisine (instead of popular Americanized versions). Even for those who haven’t actually done a lot of traveling, the internet now keeps us globally aware, allowing for more exposure to and interest in culinary inspiration from multiple cultures.
Do good things, eat good food
Another characteristic of this generation is their tendency toward socially-conscious purchasing and philanthropy. Millennials have less money to spend than generations before them, but they are interested in spending the money they do have to support worthy causes. Food that is organic, locally-grown, and environmentally sustainable is appealing to Millennials in their quest to be ecologically responsible. Locally produced and artisan food that comes from small independent farms or stores is also a huge draw, because consumers can feel good about using their money to support community business.
You are what you eat
The significance of photo-heavy social media sites like Facebook and Instagram in the lives of young people allows for food to become a unique experience that can be shared. Particularly offbeat and/or visually stunning food provides a can’t-miss opportunity for an interesting social media post. This coincides with Millennials’ strong desire to be different and to display a real sense of individual personal identity. Their tendency towards impulsivity and thrill-seeking also means they tend to crave wild and exciting new experiences– something that can be satisfied by funky flavor combinations and outlandish ingredients (kimchi tacos, anyone?)
Of course, gourmet cuisine has always existed, but in the past, it has peaked more of a niche interest. Now, with foodie culture becoming more and more accessible, even fast-food brands are facing a shift in what consumers are looking for. How has this affected the casual dining industry? Stay tuned.