How do you like your mac ‘n’ cheese? Marketers explore the generation gap

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Baby boomers, Generation y

How do you like your mac ‘n’ cheese? Marketers explore the generation gap
Generational tastes are more different than ever before – and food marketers should not ignore these variations, claims flavor marketing expert Kim Holman.

Holman is vice president of marketing at flavors and ingredients company Wixon, which recently showcased four different varieties of macaroni and cheese at last month’s Snaxpo convention, tailored to the tastes of different generations. She claims that the company is seeing more and more niche marketing toward specific generations, with Baby Boomers (aged 48-66) preferring healthy takes on classic comfort foods; Generation X (32-47) choosing familiar, commercial tastes; Generation Y (19-31) having more adventurous tastes; and the upcoming Generation Z (8-18) preferring ‘snacky’ flavors.

“The generations are all so incredibly different now than ever before,”​ she said, explaining that Baby Boomers didn’t grow up with all the technology of later generations, and were raised on home-cooked meals.

On the other hand, “Generation X is a little more adventurous than the Baby Boomers” ​while Generation Y is “open to more new flavors than any other generation.”

“Then you have this generation coming up 8 to 18 year olds who are really technologically savvy…They are also the multitasking generation; from a food standpoint they have grown up with McDonald’s and eating in the back seat of the car. They like takeout and they are all about snacking, because their parents are super busy…Also all these different generations have different preferences for taste profiles too.”

Is your target too broad?

From a marketing standpoint, the traditional advice to marketers has been to focus on 25- to 54-year-olds, Holman said, but some marketers in the food industry are beginning to wonder if they are hitting anyone at all by making their target so broad.

Meanwhile, there are two generations that are attracting more attention than the others: Baby Boomers and Millennials. According to Holman, targeting these two generations makes sense in terms of potential returns, and also because these two generations have such significant differences.

“A lot of marketers are realizing that people are very different. Generations are very different,”​ she said. “…A lot of manufacturers are going after that smaller house size.”

For food manufacturers, she acknowledged that gaps between generations’ preferences are likely to make business more difficult, but said: “I think that they need to not ignore the generational differences …If you find that it makes sense to target one particular generation, I think you should do that.”

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1 comment

Mac n' Cheese - A Boomer's Eye View

Posted by Kathleen,

I'm at the the top end of Boomers. I never tasted home-cooked mac n' cheese. My only experience was with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the Blue Box and the neon-orange cheese powder that became the sauce. I'm more akin to a Millenial or Gen Y in that regard. I guess my mother was on the cutting edge of technology.

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