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ROCKVILLE, Md. — The belief that customers don't really know what they want isn't uncommon, but this generalization doesn't apply to millennials, according to a new report by market researcher Packaged Facts.
Demanding what they want, how they do and don't want it, and when they want it are hallmarks of the 69 million U.S. adults ages 18-34, according to Millennial Menus: Culinary Trend Tracking Series.
Millennials are significantly more likely than adults age 35-plus to like standing out in a crowd, enjoy making fashion statements and expect their cars to express their personalities, and this proclivity for bold and confident individualism extends noticeably to their food choices.
The report explores how to cultivate the demanding yet trend-setting millennial generation as culinary customers and identifies five of the top food trends that millennials are inspiring:
Customization — Consumers in general and millennials in particular want food items that are fresh, creative and made just for them. Customization is particularly hot in the fast casual segment. More than one third of millennials order something different every time they visit a restaurant.
Mashups — Cronuts, ramen burgers, nacho lasagna and "non-denominational noodle bars" are examples of products that picked up where fusion left off. The sky is the limit for the mashup trend, and there is a growing opportunity for consumers to get involved in the creation of the newest mixed-up food or beverage. Millennials are thrill-seeking eaters and where they go, the rest of the world follows.
Munchies — Rather than sticking to the three-meals-a-day standard, millennials often opt for several snacks or small meals throughout the day. With 35 percent of millennials trending toward snacks as meal replacements, munchies are now expected to be healthful, flavorful and portable, according to the report. The snack food market offers incredible room for expansion.
Bowls — Burgers are still king, but bowls are rapidly becoming the preferred vessel for everything from rice, noodles and salad to quinoa, acai, and poké. The ingredients can be customized or pre-set, but bowls allow for creative expression and have plenty of room for healthy ingredients within a familiar format. As diners continue to seek out personalized plates, the build-your-own bowl trend offers an attractive alternative in an assembly-line format. Breakfast and lunch/dinner bowls are already becoming a familiar part of the restaurant landscape, and snack-size and dessert bowls may be next.
Shrubs and Digestives — As consumer interest in probiotics grows, shrubs and digestives are taking on new life as beverages, mixers and flavoring agents. For example, the consumer search for healthier alternatives to sugary drinks has led to rekindled enthusiasm among millennials for drinking vinegars, artisanal tonics, and kombucha, launching a segment of the beverage industry that is increasing in volume.