Millennials number 69 million and their views on food choices have been a driving factor in the functional foods market for the past few years. Demanding what you want, how you want it and when you want are all hallmarks of Millennials, and this pronounced proclivity for bold and confident individualism extends noticeably to five top food trends being fueled by Millennials, according to a new report from Packaged Facts.
Customization. Consumers—Millennials in particular—want food items that are fresh, creative and made just for them. That’s where the customization trend comes in—and it’s hotter than ever in the fast-growing fast casual segment. The Millennial definition of customized, personalized, made-to-order food goes way beyond “white, wheat or rye" to encompass restaurant meals that are bespoke in their entirety. More than one-third of Millennials order something different every time they visit a restaurant. What better way to entice them to a restaurant than to offer a mix-and-match dining experience where they can build something different every time?
Mashups. Taking up where fusion left off, the sky is the limit for the mashup trend, including a growing opportunity for consumers to get involved in the creation of the newest crazy-mixed-up food or beverage. Many Millennials are thrill-seeking foodies, and they are the target market that food retailers and brands are most seeking to please.
Munchies. Ditching the three-meals-a-day standard, Millennials are reshaping how Americans eat, often opting for several snacks or small meals throughout the day. With 35 percent of Millennials trending toward snacks as meal replacements, munchies are now expected to be healthful, flavorful, and portable. The snack food market offers almost limitless room for expansion, ranging from whole-grain crackers packaged with vegetable-based spreads to cookies made with cricket flour to sippable soups.
Bowls. Burgers may still be king, but bowls are fast becoming the preferred vessel for everything from rice, noodles and salad to quinoa, acai and poké. Whether the ingredients are customized or pre-set, bowls allow for creative expression and plenty of room for healthy ingredients, all within a familiar format. And as diners continue to look for personalized plates, the build-your-own bowl trend offers an attractive alternative in an assembly-line format. With breakfast and lunch/dinner bowls already becoming a familiar part of the restaurant landscape, snack-size and dessert bowls are ready for their close-up.
Shrubs and Digestives. As consumers become more interested in probiotics, shrubs and digestive have taken on new life in the market as beverages, mixers, and flavoring agents. For example, the consumer search for healthier alternatives to sugary drinks—which has caused the long-noted decline in traditional soda sales—has led to rekindled enthusiasm among Millennials for drinking vinegars, artisanal tonics and kombucha, launching a segment of the beverage industry that is increasing in volume to match consumer interest.
On a side note, Millennials are demanding more in terms of brand transparency. In fact, a report from Mintel found 43 percent of Millennials agree they do not trust large food manufacturers compared to just 18 percent of non-Millennials. Similarly, 74 percent of Millennials wish food companies were more transparent about how they manufacture their products (versus 69 percent of non-Millennials).