Gen Y Makes Its Own Rules When It Comes to Food

Discussion
Jan 21, 2009

By George Anderson

Gen Y consumers grew
up with more choices when it came to places to buy food, types of cuisine
and access to technology. Today, those consumers, now between the ages
of 13 and 28, are in the process of creating a whole new set of rules about
eating and food.

According to How Gen Y Eats Culinary Trend Mapping
Report
from the Center for Culinary Development
(CCD) and Packaged Facts, food marketers need to focus on what drives
these consumers to buy… and fast. If not, they’ll be off to some other
brand or eating establishment not only taking their purchases with them
but also those of elder generations.

"Generation
Y has a game-changing approach to food consumption that will definitely
affect how other demographics, including Gen Xs and Baby Boomers, shop
and eat," said Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD, in a press release.

Gen
Y consumers, according to the report, are health-conscious largely because
of the influence of their Baby Boomer parents. They are also "Thrill
Aficionados," according to the study, "craving heightened eating
experiences, like intense, layered and global flavors."

These
consumers have also been dubbed "Mashup Artists," because of
their desire to
"customize food" to meet their individual needs.

Discussion Questions:
How do you think Gen Y consumers are influencing food and how we eat
today? What will the eating behaviors of Gen Y consumers mean for companies
in the food business in years to come?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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12 Comments on "Gen Y Makes Its Own Rules When It Comes to Food"


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John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
13 years 4 months ago

Generation Y are entering the workforce in a down market. While they are more eco-savvy, they are much more price and time sensitive than their older siblings. While being “green” is important, it will lose out to not having enough “green” in their wallets.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
13 years 4 months ago

Customization is the key. The Net Generation demands that they be able to customize everything. Their workspace, their computers, their playlists on their iPods, their clothing, and their food. They don’t want to purchase a Coke or a Dr. Pepper. They want to purchase a Coke, that they can then add a shot of energy booster to, and another shot of flavor. They definitely want to develop, and then eat their own creations.

Doritos has made some great headway in this area by packing two flavors in one pack. Burger King in Asia provides various flavor packets when your purchase french fries. All of these mash-up food events are on the right track, but CPG companies will need to take it even further to keep the Net Gens interested in their products. What an opportunity to have some fun with brand products in the future!

David Biernbaum
Guest
13 years 4 months ago

Gen Y, much in the same way as Gen X, Boomers, and my great grandma’s aunts and uncles, make consumer choices based on current trends, some which are established by the given current environment, others which are created and sold to them by advertising, marketing, income, word of mouth, and today, more so in viral marketing online, whereas a previous generation was influenced more by television, and generations before were influenced by radio hosts and town hall meetings, etc. However, technology changes consumer trends only in how information and influence “happens,” but consumers’ nature doesn’t change as much from generation to generation as some might think, or suggest.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
13 years 4 months ago

Can anyone really see a trend in this market? On the one hand, yes I agree that health concerns are a big influence with this demographic. However this is the same group that suffers from the highest rate of obesity. So what’s the connection? Is it based on income, race, geography or just personal style?

As much as marketers might like to label Gen Y as innovative eaters, I still see the longest lines at the food court in front of the McDonald’s.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
13 years 4 months ago

To the Gen Y demo, it’s all about individualism. They want it designed specifically for them. Gen Y group can be divided once again to be more precise; the 13-21 age bracket is about the environment, health and eco-aware. They feel a responsibility to reduce packaging, eat right and eat organically. Vegetarians will increase and that option will need to be more widespread. The 21-28 year-olds are more about convenience, speed and efficiency, still with some of the same attitudes of the younger Gen Y bracket but more focused on speed.

Rachel Magni
Guest
Rachel Magni
13 years 4 months ago
We have done extensive market research with this segment (Gen Y/Millennials) and their attitudes and usage of food and restaurants. We all need to be paying attention to them: They are the largest generation to date and eat out at every type of restaurant significantly more than their Boomer parents. To say that they are “health-conscious” and “thrill-aficionados” are somewhat accurate statements but only scratch the surface of the way they consider choices: 1) Health = fresh, non-processed, local, even “green.” There are opportunities here for most food companies and restaurant concepts to deliver the RIGHT health message that will resonate with Millennials. 2)Eclectic = beyond interesting tastes and the customization (as noted, huge in this group) it’s really about what makes a food item (or restaurant concept) “buzz-worthy,” something to share with others on social networking sites: design, location, promotions. 3)Social = Millennials want the opportunity to eat in groups, to be part of the scene–so the right bar, vibrant/active environment (e.g. TVs in a sports bar), large tables all invite them into the… Read more »
Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
13 years 4 months ago

As market research professionals we are always trying to predict, forecast and measure the next big trend. The larger a group we can tie this trend to the greater its impact and value will be to our research consumers.

Unfortunately, as a group grows in size the less precise we can be when making predictions. Generational, gender and ethnic groups are fun to talk about but too broad and diverse to be of any real value. It always comes down to specific products and stores for specific customers. Trader Joe’s, and Walmart can both be successful because they are very effective at delivering on their brand promise.

As pointed out by previous comments, the question is not weather Gen Y is more health conscious or more obese than previous generations. The question is what segments will our brand appeal to, how large is the segment and do they live by my store?

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
13 years 4 months ago

I believe Rachel’s observations are right on target. However, as these kids’ barista and retail clerk jobs dry up in this economic climate–and as Mom and Dad have less and less inclination to throw them a Jackson every time the Millennials walk out the door–how will these “trends” really hold up?

Susan Cole
Guest
Susan Cole
13 years 4 months ago

Gen Y are environmentally & eco aware, brand conscious & in touch with the world electronically as never before. However, they still by and large live under their parents’ roofs in most parts of the world (unless living in a college in the US) & thus eat whatever their benefactors have magically placed in the refrigerator or whatever’s fast & easy when they’re on the run.

Not until they’re responsible for their own shopping & expense management will Gen Y convert their social conscience into consumer choices. Burgers still rule, but sushi is closing in.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
13 years 4 months ago
As the father of 2 Gen Y sons (20 and 22), one of whom is a trained chef, I am seeing first hand the impact of Gen Y on how our food preferences are evolving. Their tastes have been far more sophisticated than our generation their whole lives. Their exposure to eclectic food options from an early age forged an appreciation and an expectation for choice, unique flavors, and unusual combinations. They are willing to try almost anything and have developed sophisticated palettes for categories like wine and cheese, and types of cuisine such as Indian, Thai and regional Chinese. However, like all generations, their and their friends’ top choices continue to be pizza and other familiar favorites. Food companies are doing a reasonably good job in offering a combination of familiar and new/innovative choices. Due to the speed of food consumption, it is not difficult to discern the trends of food choice. Simply test and pay attention to consumer purchase patterns and decide to focus on either comfort/familiar or innovative. Don’t try to do… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 4 months ago

Gen Y won’t help revive the lard, liver, head cheese, or pineapple soda categories. They’ll just continue to decline.

John Pack
Guest
John Pack
13 years 3 months ago

I’m no expert but the thing that stands out to me about “Y” is their tenacious adherence to messaging that makes them feel good. I say “feel” good because they are pushovers for processed food in an “organic” looking package. More than ever we have to deliver a message that is incredibly relevant, what’s in the box is secondary for better or worse. As a 30 year old, I stand in the mirror as I say this.

“Panera anyone?”

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