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What Millennials want: From customization to continuous snacking

By Elaine Watson+

27-Apr-2016

Picture: istockphoto
Picture: istockphoto

Whether it’s choosing a car, or deciding what to wear, Millennials display a “pronounced proclivity for bold and confident individualism,” according to Packaged Facts. But how does this impact their food choices, and how can manufacturers, retailers and restaurants cash in?

In a new report, Millennial Menus: Culinary Trend Tracking Series , Packaged Facts explores how to cultivate the Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 2000) as culinary consumers by focusing on five food trends:

CUSTOMIZATION:  Today’s consumers in general and Millennials in particular want food items that are fresh, creative, and made just for them, says Packaged Facts.

That’s where the customization trend comes in—and it’s hotter than ever in the fast-growing fast casual segment. Talk about a game changer: 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 a 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:  “Many Millennials are thrill-seeking foodies,” says Packaged Facts. “They’re the target market that food retailers and brands are most seeking to please, because where Millennials go, the rest of the world follows.  And nothing else piles it on quite like mash-ups.”

MUNCHIES: Forget three meals a day, says Packaged Facts. “Millennials are reshaping how Americans eat, often opting for several snacks or small meals throughout the day. With 35% 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 cricket flour cookies to sippable soups.”

BOWLS: Bowls are fast becoming the preferred vessel for everything from rice, noodles and salad to quinoa, acai, and poke,” says the report. “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.”

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