Food Preferences and Demographics

I spoke for the WMU Food Marketing conference this week and while doing the research for that presentation I ran into some very interesting facts that may influence how you think.

1.  All US cooking is either before Julia Child or after.  She is the most important influence on how real people cook in the 20th century.

2.  The most used phrase in the food world right now is “depth of flavor.”

3.  Food lovers are divided between health nuts and foodie adventurers.  People self describe this way.  Most are both but at different times.

4.  The best way to understand food preferences is to look at cookbooks in ten year slices.  Two of every 10 entres in the 1950s used canned soup as an ingredient.  No canned soup is used by any of the regulars on the Food Network.

5.  Twentysomethings are driving the trend for foods whose chief characteristic is knowable calories not taste.  What is the point of Skinny Girl Vodka?  A buzz with fewer calories.

6.  Boomers who should/might be health conscious are the largest consumers of pork belly in all its variations.  No one has ever claimed pork belly is a health food.

7.  Home entertaining is at an all time low across the age spectrum except for holiday gatherings.  Think of this as a problem for florists and caterers.

8.  Artisanal cheese costs more per pound than premium meat.  Check out the cheeses at Whole Foods or a premium food store.   The average price of artisanal cheese is $20 per pound.

9.  Mixing ethnic foods is expected.  For example, Indian and Italian or Mexican and Spanish.  It’s all about complimentary flavors.

10.  Premium dining ($100 per person without liquor) is highly desirable and is considered entertainment, not dining, because it consumes a whole evening.

11.  Of all food groups, dressings and sauces have changed the most in the past 50 years.  No salad or salad dressing from the 1950s is widely used now.  We can thank Julia for popularizing oil and vinegar as the basic dressing.

So, who cares?  You don’t have to work in the food service industry to care about food trends because food manufacturing is such a huge industry.  The reaction to pink slime on the web should warn every food manufacturer that you can be out of business if the public turns health nut on your product.   You don’t have to be interested in demographics to watch seismic shifts in tastes as each group pursues its preferences.  One final issue:  younger consumers will influence Boomer food preferences rather than vice versa as the Boomers pursue the new, the now, and above all, youth.

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Filed under Boomers, Demographics, Millennials and GenX