Millennials are a group to be reckoned with at food events, especially as they act upon their food and beverages preferences, which are quite different than other generations. The food trends appealing to young adults – particularly these ten – are taking over.
1. Fast Casual Dining
There’s almost nothing more appealing to millennials than fast casual dining. If you’ve ever walked into a Chipotle at prime lunch or dinner hours, you know this to be true. With lines out the door, restaurants like Chipotle, Au Bon Pain, Panera Bread and Five Guys have brought the perfect blend of cheap food and chill dining environment. There’s also the ever-appealing factor of customization, leaving millennials to order exactly what they want, easily omitting any ingredients they find distasteful. We’re not surprised to hear that Americans spent $21 billion in the fast casual market last year, and don’t expect that to plummet any time soon.
2. Whole 30 Diet
The 30-day weight loss program called “Whole 30,” is all the rage amongst millennials. It’s particularly popular on social media, with a wealth of healthy meal photos on Instagram (check out #iamwhole30 or #whole30recipes to see for yourself). While Whole 30 shares similarities with the older Paleo diet – a regiment in which individuals eat only what the first men would have consumed – there are notable differences. For example, unlike the Paleo diet, Whole 30 eliminates all sugar, legumes and grains. Some nutritionists find fault with these specific limitations, but millennials don’t seem to mind.
3. Locally Grown
Going to the farmer’s market has never been more in-style amongst 20-somethings. There’s an appreciation of knowing where the food comes from, and eating it where it was harvested – it’s taking over millennials’ shopping and eating behaviors. While the farm-to-table concept isn’t a new one, it’s becoming a bigger influencer – even a priority – as millennials make dining decisions. Consider artisan breads in the bakery downtown, craft brews at the local microbrewery and, of course, the town farmer’s market. Anything produced in the local region is almost guaranteed to be trending.
4. Organic and Natural
Millennials love their organics and naturals. Another reason they’re heading to the local farmer’s markets is, besides supporting local vendors, to get the freshest options available. Millennials may be a group that likes discounts, but authenticity is a priority often regardless of price. They’re shopping more and more on the outside of the grocery store – housing produce, dairy and meats – and less time in the center aisles – where the processed foods hang. Fresh. Natural. Organic. They’re checking labels and – unlike their elders – adhering to almost no big brand loyalty. “The millennials are more concerned about food and nutrition,” said Alexia Howard, stock analyst following the packaged food industry. With so much information out there preaching the benefits of pesticide and antibiotic-free foods, millennials evidently like what they’re reading.
5. Fermented Foods
Foods with live cultures – yum! For this trend, items like yogurt, sauerkraut and tempeh will overtake millennials’ refrigerators. The benefit of eating foods like these, containing active cultures, is their bacteria-boosting qualities. They’re good for intestinal health and digestion. So just like eliminating gluten, incorporating fermented foods is about to take millennial the stage.
Seeking any opportunity to get together and start the flow of mimosas, millennials have really embraced the concept of brunch – aka late breakfast, early lunch with alcoholic beverages in tow. Farha Ternikar, author of Brunch: A History, claims, “Brunch continues to grow anywhere there is disposable income or time.” Hence the flow of working millennials – with limited financial responsibility – and under-employed millennials with extra time on their hands. What better way is there to spend a Saturday or Sunday? A large Bloody Mary and Eggs Benny, for millennials anyway, wins almost every time.
7. Food Trucks
There are a number of appeals when it comes to food on wheels. Among millennials, convenience, low cost and unique flavor options are key factors contributing to the food truck craze. And while a draw to wild and adventurous ingredient combinations correlates with millennial behavior, popular restaurants – like TGI Friday’s – have even begun serving their traditional menu items on the road. So whether a particular millennial likes to try new things or not, the food truck delivers.
8. Authentic Eats
Authentic – in this sense – doesn’t necessarily mean locally grown, but rather locally renowned. Millennials travel to Chicago and want authentic deep dish pizza. They go to Philadelphia and want an authentic Philly Cheesesteak. They want the best clam chowder and lobster sandwich in New England. While this may be rooted in an appreciation of locally grown food, the desire for authenticity seems to be more about experience. If a unique variety of food is available in one place, one place in which that item is famous, it’s regarded with a sense of authenticity – and millennials like that.
9. Spicy Flavors
As mentioned, millennials are attracted to new, bold and adventurous flavors. Appropriately, therefore, Sriracha is very, very hot right now. Restaurants like Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays are amongst the many chains tapping in to this trend. And why wouldn’t they give the sauce a shot? According to a 2013 survey, 54% of consumers gave spicy sauces and foods a thumbs up. Some preference was given to new flavors, too, with 37% reporting an interest in trying unfamiliar menu items.
10. Anything Kale
Green smoothies, kale salads, kale chips – kale, kale, kale. This bitter leafy green, exploding with nutritional benefits, has been dubbed the key to millennials’ hearts. In fact, in an effort to boost business, Costco is using kale to lure in millennials. Big bags of the stuff, it seems, will act like catnip to young adults.