“5 Food and Nutrition Trends for Millennials and Gen Z” was written by soon to be Registered Dietitians Fabiana Caldera, Jacqueline Barcelo and Katheryne Romero. Reviewed/edited by Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND.
Millennials and Gen Z
Millennials and Generation Z have driven some very interesting food and nutrition trends. Their motives behind their preferences are fascinating, which is why we want to talk about their background before diving into the nutrition and food trends.
The generation born between 1981-1996 is referred to as Millennials. This is a generation that is more engaged with food and interested in all aspects of the food process. They are more open to trying new and unique brands, especially if they align with their values.
They are health conscious, but are not afraid to indulge a bit. Convenience is big for them, and it shows by the growing number of meal delivery apps available today.
Millenials are the largest generation group, numbering 72.1 million people in 2019, and the food industry has taken notice of the power they possess.
This generation is expected to grow and bypass Baby Boomers and Generation Z by 2028. (Pewresearch)
Generation Z, on the other hand, is the newest generation to be named and it was born between 1997 and 2012.
Gen Z is one of the most diverse and educated generations and it is said is on track to surpass past generations. This generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet.
When it comes to nutrition trends, they are known to prefer fresh and wholesome foods. In fact, Gen Z consumers are more likely to engage in vegan/vegetarian lifestyles.
According to a Tufts Nutrition Report, almost half of Gen Z’ers indicated they would pay more for foods they perceive as healthier compared to 32% of Millennials (The Food Institute).
5 Food and Nutrition Trends
Food and Nutrition Trend #1: Sustainability, Recycle and Upcycle
Many consumers are basing the decision to purchase food on the product’s and/or company’s commitment to sustainability and preserving the environment.
This is greatly due to Millennials and Generation Z influence as they are very concerned about the environment, their easy access to information has made companies incorporate sustainable practices into their mission.
With this trend, we also see more recyclable or reusable containers and materials being utilized by different companies. The term “upcycle” is also trending and refers to reusing materials that would otherwise go to waste, this has influenced many actions to reduce food waste.
Reducing food waste
An example of this food trend, some products are being made with ingredients that are thrown away, like chickpea water, (yes, the water that you drain from canned chickpeas) it is better known as aquafaba and commonly used as an egg replacement in many products targeted to vegans.
Another example is a company called “Misfits Market” that offers a subscription to a box with organic produce that would otherwise go to waste due to not looking perfect enough for a grocery store. Products coming from local sources continue to trend as well, it provides a sense of freshness and support of growth for small businesses or farmers.
Food and Nutrition Trend #2: Functional Foods
Food expectations from previous generations mainly included enjoyment and weight management. However, for Millennials and Generation Z enjoying food is simply not enough, they expect more benefits from what they are eating. Functional foods are those that can potentially provide a health benefit aside from basic nutrition (Mayo Clinic).
We see a trend in these consumers buying products because of a specific functional food that was added. Some of the benefits that they are looking for are disease prevention, improving immune response, muscle recovery and brain health.
Trending functional foods include pre and probiotics, collagen, hemp-based CBD, fiber, green tea and antioxidants (IFT). Superfoods is also a label that receives a lot of attention from these generations as it provides consumers the idea of nutritionally dense foods however, the term was created as a marketing strategy and there is no regulatory or scientific evidence to back its definition (Food Insight).
Food and Nutrition Trend #3: Plant-Based Trends
A shift towards a more plant-based diet is trending. According to a Nielsen report, 40% of Americans are shifting to a more plant-based diet. We can see it on social media, television with Burger King advertising the Impossible Whopper, and pretty much everywhere in the supermarket aisles.
Millennials and Generation Z seem to be more health conscious and are more aware of sustainability than previous generations. Whether it’s due to concerns over health or sustainability to minimize the impact on the environment, these generations’ eating habits are changing.
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 2% of Americans ages 55 and older say they adhere to a vegetarian diet, compared with 8% of 18-34 year-olds and 7% of 35-54 year-olds, but the market for plant-based foods continues to grow with a 29% increase in the past two years equaling $5 billion reported by The Good Food Institute. I don’t think anyone can deny that the plant-based foods business is booming.
Meat alternatives and meat blends are also trending and becoming extremely popular. With people recognizing that consuming animals is not the only way to get their protein, we have seen a growth of 11% in the purchasing of meat alternative products, according to Acosta Sales and Marketing, and a decline of 18% in red meat production from 2019 to 2020, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.
Research shows that diets centered around healthy plant-based foods have many health benefits including lowering the risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Food and Nutrition Trend #4:Global Cuisine Trend
Food from Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Lebanon, Israel, Africa, and many more are now part of our cuisine. Moreover, we are seeing the blend of cuisines or cultures, referred as fuse-ubiquity. For example, sushi donut and sushi pizza are becoming very common in restaurants.
Also, there are also different global flavor and ingredients trends. These include exotic fruits such as dragon fruit, jackfruit, madagascar lime, guava, and more. There are also florals and botanicals like hibiscus. Lastly, consumers are seeking to see more high sensory experiences. In other words, they want to experience more texture and visual appeal. An example for texture is the Taco Bell’s Firecracker burritos with popping spices or crunchy cheetos on burgers. On the contrary, examples for a visual appeal are liquid nitrogen gelato.
Food and Nutrition Trend #5:Street Food Trend
Street food has been a staple of many countries for years, but in the U.S., the explosion of street food is one of the hottest new food trends.
From sandwiches, tacos, BBQ, to ice cream cookies, and funnel cakes for desserts, it seems that street food and food trucks are everywhere. Food truck growth is out spacing the commercial restaurant industry, 5.4% vs. 4.3% (Food Truck Operator).
Many of these street food vendors are capitalizing on global food trends, like Asian, Mexican, and Mediterranean cuisine, and ethnic mash-ups like Korean BBQ tacos and burgers with ramen buns. It is no surprise that these grab and go foods are popular with Millennials and Generation Z since convenience, flexibility and diversity are an important factors for both these generations.