Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Millennials take loving food to a whole new level

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Millennials take loving food to a whole new level https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/millennials388-388x198.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

All generations love food, but nothing in recent memory can quite compare with Millennials’ obsession with all things edible. Indeed, the generation born between 1980 and 2000 is re-shaping the future of restaurants, grocery stores and agriculture. If you are in the foodservice industry and you are not familiar with the Millennials, it’s time you get to know them. They hold the key to your future.

One person who has spent a lot of time thinking about Millennials and their obsession with food is author Eve Turow. A Millennial herself, Turow believes that in today’s digital era, people are latching onto food as a commodity that engages all the senses, bringing people together in physical spaces.

“I think that a lot of people in our generation are thinking about, ‘What am I going to eat next?’ ‘Where am I going to go dine next?’ ‘What’s in the fridge and what can I put together tomorrow?’” Turow told the Atlantic. “I think that that’s expressed in social media. I think if an outsider were to come in and be like, ‘What’s your proof that people are actually interested in food?’ I would say, a) talk to anyone who lives in Brooklyn and b) go online. If you look at any of the statistics for Instagram or Pinterest or Twitter or Facebook: Pinterest, the food boards are the most popular boards. There’s a website that’s just foodporn.com where you can go look at food all day. Then there’s the Food Network, there’s Chopped, there’s the food proliferation on cable channels. I think it’s the most obvious way, so that you’re seeing the user-generated content and then also the media market’s response to all of that interest.”

Turow herself has been transformed by her generation’s fascination with food. She recalls that when she was in college she was content to subsist on “gelatinous brown rice, pre-cooked mushy pinto beans, [and] blocks of bouncy tofu.” If she were in college today, however, she would be finding rice-bowl inspiration on Pinterest and patronizing the nearby farmer’s market and the greenhouse attached to her college’s science library.

No surprise that she would find food inspiration at a college. According to a study by the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts, college campuses are the “incubators” of the melding of technology and community that is shaping Millennials’ attitudes toward food.

Keep in mind that Millennials, like Turow, are tech savvy in the extreme. This generation, in addition to their love of socializing via Web communities, even view eating as a profoundly wired activity, using networking technologies in food-centric ways, including “from downloading menus and placing orders to subscribing to wireless recipe and ordering information services,” notes the study.

Additionally, they are thrill-seekers who seek out heightened eating experiences through intense flavors and extreme textures.

And their tastes are even affecting those of older generations.

“I think that Millennials are affecting their parents,” Turow observed. “I think that we are driving the change. And it’s easy to say that this is something that’s happened with everyone, but take a look back at history. In the ’70s, there was a huge backlash against DDT, and there was the macrobiotic movement, and… it used to be a bunch of funny people out in the woods doing it by themselves. So these are not issues our parents have been unaware of. Maybe they were vegans for a little bit in high school and then it wore off. But you look around today and you’re seeing amazing things happening with Chipotle, with Kraft mac and cheese saying they’re going to take the yellow dye out. There is huge progress being made and it’s largely because the industry is seeing that Millennials are not going to be spending their money on processed foods.”

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