In the United States, there are approximately 80 million Millennials, which includes the generation born roughly between 1982 to 2002. Half of them call themselves “foodies,” according to research by the global advertising agency BBDO. So I set out to find out more about why this generation of young people is so fascinated with the latest food trends and ingredients.
My guide was journalist Eve Turow Paul, a Millennial herself. A former assistant for Mark Bittman, she recently authored the critically acclaimed book A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food.
Her book is a wealth of information gleaned from interviews with various Millennials as well as leading names in the food industry, such as Anthony Bourdain, Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle. It’s a must read for anyone interested in the food motivations of young people.
Recently, she agreed to tell me more about why food is so important to this generation.
Q) Why are Millennials so obsessed with food?
“Ultimately, food is satisfying multiple needs for young people. It generates community, allows us to engage all our senses, gives us a way to perform our identities and personal brands and puts us in the driver’s seat of choosing what we put into our bodies. Right now, those elements are immensely important to young people.”
Q) How does food fulfill important needs for this tech-oriented generation?
“Technology, in many ways, interrupts the elements that make human life joyful—genuine connection with others, hands-on engagement, comfort and security. As young people’s lives become more and more infused in the tech space, we’re craving some of the most basic elements of what makes life pleasant and fulfilling—dining with others, creating deep relationships, marveling at nature and feeling like we’re in control of something.”
Q) What are a few major 2017 food trends we can expect to see with Millennials?
“In 2017, I’d expect trends around supplements to expand as people attempt to increase control over their own bodies. I also believe that the idea of “clean” and whole foods will continue to strengthen.”
“Ideally, I hope that the return to local food also continues, and with that an appreciation for artisan and unique crops and products. I also just read that Whole Foods expects purple fruits and veggies to be a big hit in 2017. Additionally, probiotics and prebiotics will continue to play a big role on shelves.”
Q) How will the recent presidential election results impact these trends?
“That’s a great question. Unfortunately, I believe the new administration will only cause many of young people’s greatest anxieties and fears to be heightened. School debt, immigration, human rights, climate change, minimum wage—all these issues directly affect young people.
With an increasingly shaky grounding, chances are that young people will attempt to alleviate these fears by other means – perhaps by connecting with family and friends, engaging with nature and hopefully supporting their local farmers and food entrepreneurs. Food is also a great way to express your values: organic, vegan and local foods may see a significant uptick because of that.”
Q) As a Millennial, what personally keeps you up at night about the food system? What gives you hope?
“At the moment, a lot keeps me up at night.
I’m particularly worried about the immigrant workforce at the moment. Who will harvest our crops, cook and serve our food if 3 million illegal immigrants are forced to leave? This will push the price of food up for all Americans, as well, when already 48 million Americans are on food stamps and 42 million are food insecure.
I’m also, quite frankly, terrified of us stalling on climate initiatives. However, one of the best ways for us to respond will be to push for sustainable farming in the U.S., which can ultimately have a big impact on carbon levels.”
Thanks so much for your time.
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