Food unifies strangers, friends and family alike – satisfying hunger and sparking emotional connectivity. The way today’s consumer intersects with food has shifted significantly. Foodie culture now sits firmly in the mainstream and has emerged as an increasingly important part of consumer social DNA.
Pop culture has demystified the sanctity of food and influenced our growing affinity. However, the biggest driver has been preferences of the “foodie” generation (aka Millennials). In a way very distinct from prior generations, Gen Y views food as a means for personal storytelling and self-expression. They’re posting food creations (even adorably combining food + baby love), searching for cool curated foodie content and checking in on social to share the best food experiences. These levels of engagement have altered perspective and caused many to view the food conversation as a source of shared values and community.
Today’s “foodgramming” Gen Y is redefining the intersection of food and community in a variety of ways. It’s all about being together when it comes to food. According to the experts at Future Cast, Millennials prefer to go grocery shopping with friends rather than go alone. They also tend to feel less comfortable eating a meal alone (45 percent vs. 54 percent of older consumers). Interestingly, their collective love of travel, cultural exploration and food sharing has inspired global supper clubs like Eat With – described as the Airbnb for breaking bread with locals in their homes.
When it comes to food experiences, Gen Y is seeking convenience, low prices and unique foods and flavors. They see food as a means for expression related to other important touch points like travel and social good.
Brands connected to food culture and ones with less direct ties have activated experiential and digital channels to connect with consumers. For instance, IBM partnered with the Institute of Culinary Education to showcase a recipe-generating program and featured it via a food truck appearing at SXSW. Other more food-centric brands leveraged Instagram for campaign executions, like Applebee’s Fantographer, and targeted paid media, like Chobani’s integration. In both cases, elevating engagement and helping shift brand perceptions.
Beyond the incredibly relevant Millennial segment, marketers should look to the future and consider how population shifts will be influencing food culture. NPD Group’s report – The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018? – indicates over the next five years Hispanics will have the most tangible impact on food. The report suggests Hispanics (and young people generally) want to be more involved with their meals. This means future mainstream food habits will likely include from-scratch preparation and less reliance on prepackaged box foods.
Consider some of these approaches to deliver authentic messages and engage food culture focused consumers:
- Embrace eco: Millennials feel it’s important to be socially responsible foodies. In fact, 70 percent of millennials are buying less bottled water because of the negative environmental impact. Appeal to their affinity for socially conscious food production (locally sourced) and packaging. Of course, focus on organics and healthy living is also relevant.
- Storytell: Millennials are especially interested in the story behind their food and looking to learn more about what’s in it and how it’s made. They want to know more about how their food is made, and they think brands don’t disclose enough about their products. Give them a story to learn, love and share.
- Think gender neutrality: Millennials are more likely than previous generations to be gender neutral when it comes to the role of cooking (61 percent of females and 60 percent of males enjoy cooking). Just as fashion and retail shopping have emerged as gender-neutral topics, approach food with equal balance.
- Appeal to cultural inclusivity: Millennials consider food an adventure and seek out different, ethnic and artisan foods (40 percent like to try new kinds of ethnic cuisines).