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CHICAGO — The evolving demographics of America, including the growing influence of Hispanics and the changing life stages among millennials and baby boomers, is one of the key factors driving the shift in what and how consumers eat, according to The NPD Group
Over three decades, NPD has been continually tracking all aspects of how consumers eat in-home and away from home. Based on that research, NPD this week released the five top consumer trends shaping the foodservice industry. They are:
The U.S. Hispanic population is growing exponentially compared to non-Hispanics. In 2014, U.S. Hispanics grew restaurant visits while non-Hispanic visits declined. In-home, the Hispanic population combined with their adherence to dining traditions is beginning to influence national consumption patterns. Fresh and from-scratch are the most common food forms during Hispanic meal preparation. Stove-top preparation dominates Hispanic meals more than non-Hispanic meals due to the types of dishes being prepared.
In 2015, the millennial generation is projected to surpass baby boomers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau population projections. Based on sheer numbers, millennials are driving changes in this country’s eating behaviors with their approach to food choice and preparation. They like fresh, less processed food, which has played out in their preference for fast-casual restaurants that offer freshly prepared foods and shopping the perimeter of grocery stores where fresh and non-packaged foods can be found.
The baby boomer generation is aging, considering retirement, becoming empty nesters and developing health ailments, all of which are typically associated with major changes in the way we approach food and beverage consumption. While shrinking in size, this generation is still too large to ignore, especially given their expected lifestyle changes. This group will be less driven by the latest fad and more by what they need to sustain their health and lifestyles. Healthful foods — high in whole grains, protein and calcium, or low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium — will be of most interest to this generational group. Boomers’ restaurant visits have surpassed those of younger adults, who have cut back on visits over the past several years.
Consumption behaviors in the U.S. have become less household-oriented and more individualized than previous generations. For example, more than 50 percent of eating and beverage occasions happen when consumers are alone. Also contributing to consumers dining alone is that 27 percent of all households now consist of just one person — the highest level in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of solo eating and drinking occasions has wide-ranging implications for food and beverage marketers and foodservice operators in terms of new product development, packaging and positioning, restaurant seating design, menu development and more.
From 2003 to 2013, consumption of fresh foods grew by 20 percent to more than 100 billion eatings and it’s the youngest generations, Generation Z and millennials, driving the trend. In addition to eating more fresh foods, Generation Z and millennial consumers are interested in eating more organic foods. In terms of foodservice visits, millennials prefer fresh ingredients and freshly prepared items — key differentiators among many fast-casual restaurant formats vs. traditional quick-service restaurant formats. An aspect of freshly prepared that suits millennials is menu components that are made to order or can be customized.
“Macro food and beverage consumption behaviors are slow to shift, akin to the movement of the continental plates," stated Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst. "If you sit and stare at the plates along a fault line, you’re not going to observe any discernible difference from one moment to the next. However, if you put a stake in the ground on both sides and return some time later, you will see that a small but definite movement occurred."
Retail and foodservice industry players "need to be aware of these slow changes in behaviors or they will be caught off guard," Seifer added.
The NPD Group provides market information and business solutions to drive better decision-making and better results.