Study finds a generational gap in food flavor preferences
A Flavor Consumer Trend Report from Technomic indicates a generational gap in consumer food preferences toward flavor, according to a story by Winsight Grocery Business. While millennials and Generation Xers demand flavorful options such as spicy, bold and ethnic options, baby boomers are more restrained.
The divide in flavor preferences between millennials and boomers is growing, underscoring a need for restaurants and grocers to embrace a diverse product mix that includes both familiar and innovative offerings, the business publication said.
While boomers maintain an edge in spending power, millennials are now the largest demographic. They’re not as brand loyal, but they are heavily influential because of their impact on social media.
The grocery segment has a big opportunity to compete with restaurants as consumers hunger for fast, healthy and diverse foods on the go.
Some supermarket chains have entered the space by adding curbside delivery, takeout and in-store “grocerants,” as well as by expanding their prepared fresh meals sections. Publix and Kroger have introduced their own meal kits, and even Albertsons expanded its presence in the space by purchasing Plated last September.
Hy-Vee also operates more than 100 Market Grilles and recently announced plans to build 26 Wahlburgers restaurants across seven Midwestern states. Kroger and Whole Foods have opened standalone restaurants, while H-E-B has taken advantage of its local roots with its True Texas BBQ restaurants that operate in several stores throughout the Lone Star state.
Boomers like these in-store concepts because they create a one-stop dining and shopping experience. Millennials like them because they feature seasonal, chef-driven, flavorful menus at a value. But it’s important that a retailer's strategy focus on food innovation as much as convenience. This could help the grocery industry gain back some of the sales it lost to restaurants and consumers who increasingly are deciding to cook at home.
Even as millennials’ flavor preferences indicate the trend’s longevity, baby boomers continue to hold the largest spending power. As more groceries expand their food operations, older conservative taste preferences cannot be ignored. Grocers are wise to keep as many familiar products in place as possible to balance the disparate demands. In other words, keep the pasta salad and barbecue chicken in the fresh prepared section. Just make some room for the empanadas and even plant-based burgers.
Traditional supermarkets had to elevate their game when the fast casual restaurant segment emerged a decade ago, underscoring the influence of the millennial consumers on the entire food market. Even if they don’t have the largest spending power – yet – it is clear that millennials certainly have the largest social impact. Younger, experimental consumers who are more judicious with their dollars are the ones who pushed the healthy, fast, convenient trends into the mainstream. There is no reason to believe they won’t do the same with their demand for more flavor and grocers are going to have to keep up.