Food Trend Report: New Foods Boomers and Millennials Want Now

The line between health & wellness products and packaged foods is becoming increasingly blurred. There’s a definite overlap, says food product strategy, food trends and innovation process expert, Dana McCauley, who further observes a split amongst two distinct demographics: Boomers and Millennials. And while similar, there are some clear distinctions that make each group their own, marketable niche that many companies are more than happy to appeal to with their particular brands. Find out what brands are doing to stay competitive and keep up with the particular needs and wants of these two critical demographics.

Two Sides of the Buying Coin

Both demographics, with their particular needs and wants, have their own marketing opportunities, says McCauley. Given that 7% of boomers are on a prescribed diet, Paleo being a huge one right now within that age group, there’s a spate of ways packaged food companies are jumping on specific trends. Keep in mind, says McCauley, that with failing eyesight and dexterity come opportunities for companies to offer bigger print on packages, in-store magnifiers and easier-to-open bottles. On the flip side, McCauley reminds us that by 2017, there will be more Millennials in the work force than any other age group. And this is a group that wants what it wants, when they want it. Savvy food manufacturers will understand this and appeal to their socially-conscious minded preferences, while at the same time keeping things new and fresh enough to have long term staying power.

Boomers Want Health: Low-Sodium, Anti-Oxidants, Luxury

Boomers want their foods to be healthy overall, with the added bonus of having an ailment-specific preventable link. McCauley points to products with added glucosamine for improved joint health, foods supporting heart health or the big overall mantra that is anti-aging. Boomers are also more sodium and sugar conscious now than they were in the earlier part of their lives (hence the popularity of snacks like Setton Farm’s no salt roasted pistachios). It’s not surprising to see an increased push towards selling foodstuffs containing anti-oxidants to this group – lines including blueberry juices and pomegranate juice blends like Lakewood Organic.

Although much more brand loyal than Millennials, Boomers looking to try new products will give them a shot for the novelty value. Take craft beer, for example: “They may want something different to share with friends and make their parties more memorable and talked about,” says McCauley. Most Millennials will graduate with debt, working contract to contract; chances are they won’t have the same kinds of big-paying jobs that Boomers held when they were the same age. “I hear companies say, ‘I’m going to focus on Millennials’ but they don’t have the discretionary spending ability that Boomers do,” says McCauley, adding that the latter group control 35% of discretionary spending in Canada. “The premium, luxury products are often marketed more towards Boomers while the more price-sensitive packaged goods are geared towards Millennials,” she says.

Millennials Want Quality: Organic, Lifestyle Claims, Visual Appeal

On the Millennial side, companies are gearing products towards a group that’s coming into their own. New Millennial moms, for example, are the clear demographic for packaged foods made by Plum Organics. “This is a market-driven company that uses co-packers to produce their goods. They started out with the insight that Millennials would eventually have babies, and then they proceeded to figure out what it was that this group wanted.” says McCauley.

What they found is that when Millennial moms get pregnant, they switch their diet to as much organic food as possible, making these moms and moms-to-be the biggest consumers of organic foods and products in the market. Plum Organics, says McCauley, took it to the next level, producing packaged foods for 3 and 6 month old babies, as well as for toddlers. “They’ve created beautifully packaged products that visually appeal with the right messaging, from food to vitamins. By the time kids are school-aged, their packaged foods trail off the organics path because they’ve observed that mom is less concerned about that after a few years,” she says.

While Boomer moms were all about what McCauley calls “gut fill” (aka bulk over quality) when it came to food purchases, Millennials want comfort food with a side of ethically produced and environmentally sound practices. You’ll find organic ketchup (like Red Gold, for example), grass fed ground beef and hotdogs and grain fed, free range chicken fingers, “all focused on keeping mom feeling good about what her family eats,” says McCauley. She adds that, above all else, the Millenial demographic is more interested in a company’s claims, transparency and the lifestyle aspects they espouse.

Mary Luz Mejia

Mary Luz Mejia

Mary Luz Mejia is a NATJA nominated freelance food/travel journalist, Gemini-nominated former food TV producer and food communications professional. Her work can be found in Saveur, HOSS Magazine, Ensemble Vacations Magazine, and she's the Toronto correspondent for Follow her @MaryLuzOnFood.
Mary Luz Mejia