The modern family dynamic is changing in terms of size and structure, resulting in different consumer demands for the food industry. Today, more singles are living alone, and the number of married couples with kids has shrunk to 19.6 percent, a steep drop from the 55 percent in the 1950s. There also is greater diversity, and more households are headed by female breadwinners.
However, consumers are still obsessed with food. From social media to organic ingredients, food has a focus, but the public’s relationship with food and eating is shifting, according to a new report from Acosta Sales & Marketing.
“Eating has evolved right along with modern society,” the report states. “While we have stimulating culinary diversity and more dining options than ever before, there’s less time in our lives to spend on mealtime. The more discriminating eaters we become the less accomplished cooks we are.”
The report examines why and how today’s consumers are eating differently and what this means for the food industry. Overall, consumers are taking a healthful approach to eating, with 61 percent of shoppers concerned about reading food labels. Consumers are increasingly interested in foods with whole grains, less preservatives, no GMOs, reduced sugar and calories and no gluten.
“The impact of health and wellness on eating has been transformative—from the entry of fresh format stores like Whole Foods Market and Fresh Market, to the expansion of fresh food offerings in traditional grocery stores, to the growth of neighborhood farmers markets, to the organic food boom and FDA menu labeling requirements.”
The report outlines five types of cooking profiles in today’s family: the nourisher, the diet planner, the tired provider, the sustainer and the diner. Nourishers are great cooks, confident even, and view meals as family time. This profile type is attracted to fresh ingredients, prefers to eat at home and plans meals in advance. Diet planners prefer healthy options, eat at traditional meal times, stick to a specific plan and favor fresh and home-prepared ingredients.
Tired providers value flavor and ease of preparation but still consider dinner as family time. Sustainers often eat alone and away from home, with 30 percent saying all meals come from the refrigerator, pantry or freezer. Diners value great taste and traditional fare, but prefer for others to prepare their food.
The report points out that while all generations prefer to eat at home, Millennials enjoy cooking the most, while the Silent generation is more likely to find cooking a responsibility rather than a pleasure. Millennials and Gen X also eat more frequently, at least five meals per day; they favor snacking as they become more pressed for time. In terms of planning meals, Gen X shoppers strategize dinner plans the most, while Boomers plan most of their lunches. Very little planning is done by the Silent generation.
When planning meals, however, each generation has its own motivations. Millennials favor healthy options while Gen Xers, Boomers and Silents look for taste.
New and bold flavors are also taking center stage at the table, with spicy flavors like Sriracha and organic Satsuma mandarins becoming more common household foods in the US. As the demand for new flavors continues to increase, manufacturers can look to stay on top of trends by tapping into social media like Instagram and Facebook to see what’s hot.
But social media isn’t the only way to stay ahead in the industry. Acosta researchers suggest industry members:
- Tune into the modern family: Embrace smaller households and multicultural families. Design smaller portions, resealable packaging, flavor variety and affordability.
- Go fresh and healthy: Find ways to improve nutrition and tie center store products to the perimeter aisles consumers flock to.
- Make it easy: Strive for convenience and simplicity. Focus on a protein and a vegetable side, a classic still preferred by most generations.
- Attack snacks: Make munching a priority and demonstrate the nutritional value and convenience of products.
- Spark interest: Engage shoppers by keeping things interesting and new.