Teenagers today spend on average about 1,000 hours, or 39 days, thinking about food between the ages of 13 to 19, according to a national survey commissioned by Farm Rich, a Georgia-based maker of frozen snacks and appetizers.
With teens thinking more about food, they're also becoming more influential in shopping, meal planning and food routines.
The survey of 2,000 families with teens found they snack two or three times per day and complain about a meal four times per month. Parents also said 30% of the weekly grocery bill is dictated by what, when and how their teenagers like to eat.
This survey reveals some intriguing statistics for food manufacturers who may wonder how they can influence purchasing decisions where teens are concerned. A majority of teens (7 in 10) say they get their main food knowledge from their parents, and 46% of them watch cooking shows to get ideas about food, so those avenues might be worthy of exploration when it comes to product marketing.
In addition, 20% of teens said they see cooking as a creative endeavor, so reaching out to parents and teens with innovative ideas — perhaps by introducing meals they can prepare together — might be a good way to encourage cross-generational brand loyalty. With the average teen assisting in the kitchen three times a week, according to the survey, this could be an effective strategy for food companies to take and a habit that could persist with these consumers into adulthood.
The survey also found that Facebook was the main source for teens when it comes to culinary inspiration (27%), with YouTube second (21%). These social media channels are key routes to reaching the younger demographic, especially with messages about food and beverage products they might find appealing. Food manufacturers could reach out to this audience by advertising on these platforms or by posting recipes that include their products.
Teens are most interested in low-carb meals (38%), followed by low-fat ones (35%) and vegetarian offerings (32%), the survey revealed. Flavorful meals in a bowl, frozen entrées and meatless products fitting those categories would seem to fill the bill.
Big Food companies are already responding. Conagra Brands, for example, has delegated staff and research dollars to innovating its frozen product lines and widening their reach to new audiences. Its Banquet brand was refreshed, and a new premium "mega" tier for people with big appetites was added. It also introduced cheeseburger and hot chicken sliders to cater to the on-the-go consumer craving protein. Conagra also found similar success by overhauling Healthy Choice. The brand was promoted more broadly as a product for a healthy lifestyle, and its reach was expanded to tout high-energy power bowls as well as meatless and breakfast options.
The Generation Z crowd tends to go for plant-based meat alternatives, such as the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, the NPD Group recently found. They also favor LaCroix carbonated water, ramen noodles, Chobani yogurt, meat snacks such as Fusion Jerky and Jack Links, and frozen Asian and Indian-inspired meals.
As teens learn more about food preparation and consumption from their parents through cooking, dining out and shopping, either online or in the store, they will become even more instrumental in determining what they and their families consume each week. Their influence will further increase as they head off to college and eventually start their own families, making it paramount for companies to not only market to these audiences but provide foods that meet their needs and cater to their on-the-go lifestyle.