Gen Alphas are Hungry for Something Different

Gen Alphas are Hungry for Something Different

Gen Alphas are Hungry for Something Different 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

Instagrammable meals. Plant-based diets. Clean eating. Curated coffee. Local, farm-raised. Sure, Millennials may get razzed for their love of the finer things, like overpriced lattes and avocado toast, but as they have settled down and started families, this generation of parents are prioritizing healthier food choices and teaching their kids to do the same.

Although often referred to as “mini Millenials” due to parents’ influence, the Alpha generation is nonetheless unique. Born from 2010 to today, this is a cohort of digital natives, having grown up with the technology their parents had to learn how to use later in life. They are the first generation of a non-native, non-white majority in U.S. history. They have been exposed to issues ranging from the climate crisis to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and they are becoming activists for equality and sustainability inside and outside the home.

What about Alpha’s lifestyles are driving changes in food preferences? What does this mean for grocers and restaurants–and for the children of Millennials, Gen Alpha, who is poised to be the largest, most wealthy, most tech-savvy consumer generation yet?

Functional Food

More than other generations, Millennials want to know how and where their food is produced. They prioritize healthy and local foods and value teaching their children about where food comes from, how to prepare it, and how it impacts the body. We’ve seen Millennials changing their diets by decreasing red meat, increasing fruits and vegetables, increasing whole grains and proteins, and decreasing sugar.

With parents making the meals for their Gen Alpha children, we are seeing taste profiles and values among younger eaters change as well. Clean eating isn’t just a buzzy phrase anymore; for these generations, it is a way of life. You’re more likely to see a Gen Alpha child choose an apple over a bag of chips, as over-processed and fatty foods have lost favor.

Adventurous Eating

When your parents are eating sushi, pho, and curry, you want to try it too. Millennials have embraced ethnic offerings and have encouraged their Gen Alpha kids to do the same. About 50 percent of children in the U.S. are non-Hispanic white today, and it is fitting that ethnic food has become mainstream.

With early exposure to many ethnic flavors and varied ingredients, Gen Alpha’s palates are becoming more refined than earlier generations of kids and with that comes changing expectations. It’s no surprise that restaurants are picking up on this trend, with many kids’ menus resembling the adults’ menus.

Catering to this palate are experiential snacks. These snacks deliver a sensory experience through form, flavor, and texture. This fun food often showcases unexpected flavors, and innovative ingredients and offers unexpected combinations of cultures and styles to bring new experiences.

Snack Food Evolution

With less structured mealtimes becoming the norm, the snack food category is seeing new attention from Gen Alphas and their Millenial parents, who are seeking portable, nutritious snacks that will keep them energized throughout the day.

We aren’t talking potato chips and pudding cups here. Functionality, dietary alignment, and experience are the main driving factors of the snacking trend. That means Gen Alphas want snacks with a combination of dense nutritional value and specific functional benefits. These snacks must provide a hit of energy without depleting the planet.

Visual Appeal

Instagram was founded just as Gen Alpha was first entering the world, and this generation of kids is growing up with the cultural norm of posting photos of meals on social media channels. As restaurants have evolved to ensure their plates are “Instagrammable” for their Millenial patrons, school meals must provide the same appeal, as both parents and students expect them to be comparable to what is eaten outside of school. Food color, size, shape, and texture are all important considerations.

Eating for the Planet

As more people are committed to eating for a healthier planet, we can expect to see Gen Alpha follow. Vegetarian and vegan diets are well-established, but a generally sustainable approach to eating will gain popularity with this new generation of climate activists. Eating for the planet means eating food that is sustainable through ingredients, process, product or packaging. It also extends to smaller portions as well as mindful eating, which have both been shown to positively impact health.

We expect to see “flexitarian,” “climatearian” and “reducetarian” diets gaining traction among this cohort. Not only does this mean more plant-based food and meat alternatives on the shelves, but also an evolved approach to eating. As the climate crisis deepens, we could see a more philosophical approach to consumption among the youngest of our planet’s inhabitants. This aligns with Gen Alpha’s early activist nature.

Customized Cuisine

“Build your own” has been a popular menu concept for some time, and now the Alpha generation has grown to expect this level of customization. The ability to make a meal exactly what you want and when you want it has grown in popularity among fast-casual restaurants, but now kids expect customized meals everywhere they eat–from the school cafeteria to grandma’s table.

This trend is driven by this generation’s focus on individuality as well as their use of technology. Having grown up on screens, this generation expects digital integration into every part of their lives, which extends to what they are eating for lunch and how they are ordering it. Apps and other online tools will be integral in ensuring Gen Alpha can order exactly what they want to eat, when, and where they want.

With more than 2 billion people expected to join this cohort of what is being called “the wealthiest generation,” grocers and restaurants have an incredible opportunity to evolve and meet the expectations of the next generation of consumers, using technology to appeal to individuality and foster customization and healthy, purposeful dietary choices. Will they, and how does that shape new food experiences?

Interested to learn more about this up-and-coming powerhouse group?
Check out our recent Insights article, Preparing for the Alpha Generation >
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