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The foodie generation: What we're learning from Millennials

Never before has a young generation paid this much attention to food, nor challenged the food supply chain, championed chef advocacy or focused on sustainability. Meet the Millennial foodies.

by: Lisa Wallace | 10 Jan 2018

image: iStock

The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y (following Generation X or the Baby Boomers) refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and 2000s, typically 1984 and 2000. Over the last and certainly into the next decade, the Millennial Generation is predicted to entirely recast their image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged – with potentially seismic consequences

As a group, Millennials are unlike any other generation in memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse. Although the term Millennial in this context is largely US-based and typically describes the Millennial "type" in the American population, this persona has filtered into a globally accepted subculture. Importantly, and despite their bad rep of being lazy, narcissistic and prone to jump from job to job – "trophy kids" – they are beginning to manifest a variety of positive social habits that older generations no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork and achievement. "Only a few years from now, this can-do youth revolution will overwhelm the cynics and the pessimists," reads the opening of Neil Howe and William Strauss' "Millennials Rising: The Next Generation", from which the above is taken.  

There are roughly 80 million Millennials in America, making them the largest living generation, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau (for South and southern African statistics click here), and according to research half of them identify as "foodies". They buy organic groceries, Instagram their pork belly lunch and spend more than half of their income (recession-dented) on eating out, outspending older generations in restaurants. Never before has a young generation paid this much attention to food. The Millennial Foodie has made farm-to-table a thing, influenced the rise of the plant-based diet and is challenging the agricultural supply chain. 

ALSO READ: 15 Weird and bizarre food trends you're going to be seeing in 2018

Spurring a taste for apps and authenticity, many of the food trends predicted for 2018 and onward are a result of Millennial influence and intervention. According to Megan Murphy's "These Will Be the Top Dining Trends of 2018, According to the Biggest Names in Food", some of these predictions include simplicity (a focus on familiarity and purity), chef advocacy (a focus on sustainability and relevancy), environmental consciousness and plant-based menus. This 80 million+ generation is bringing new perspectives, preferences and expectations to their decisions about which restaurants to visit and what food to ingest, and restaurants and chefs that are able to rise to meet these new demands are the ones that are succeeding.

The Millennial foodie is igniting change in not only the way people consume food, but in the healthy, environmentally friendly way in which it is produced, harvested and sold. For example: Millennials don't eat cereal. Instead, they'll opt for avocado toast (no doubt Instagrammed), using gluten-free rye bread bought at the Saturday morning farmer's market (after Park Run). No bowls, no plastic packaging; just fresh, healthy food. 

Look forward to spending Market Day with you tomorrow.

A post shared by OZCFarm (@ozcfarm) on

The fall of cereal to avocado toast; image: iStock

Writer Eva Turow explores the question of why Millennials spend so much money on food in her new 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". Organic sales have tripled in the last decade, food now has "purpose" and nose-to-tail is commonly accepted. The Millennial Foodie, as irritating as they are (and I'm allowed to say that; I am one), is igniting radical change. "Absolutely the engine of dining, even fine dining now, across the board, is this generation of seemingly food-obsessed people who are willing to drive an hour and a half for a sweet taco or save up money — that my generation would have spent on cocaine — to go to Le Bernardin," says Anthony Bourdain. 

We've rounded up seven accepted and well-loved food and drink trends that we can thank Millennials for.

1. Chilled wine

Advocating chilled, juicy red wines (and by that we mean Grenache, Cinsault and a dry-as-nails rosé) is on the rise. These light and fruity wines, with notes of fresh strawberries and candyfloss, are given centre stage over heavy, overspiced and WARM reds. 

2. Botanicals, botanicals, botanicals

Think botanical-distilled gin, fynbos-infused tonics and the inclusion of fresh, local herbs as central flavour profiles – all ingredients foraged of course. 

3. Food with purpose

What does it mean to choose "food that stands for something"? From coffee roasteries that opt for ethically grown and traded beans to restaurants that use paper over plastic straws, to eateries that choose free-range meat and eggs and grass-fed beef, Millennials will give their business to restaurants that share their values.

4. Nose-to-tail, simple food

Simple food – just a few ingredients used – where the whole animal is used and a zero-waste policy is advocated. Identifying that the animal didn't die for us to consume only or less than half — no, we're seeing pig's tail and cheek, cow's tongue and devilled chicken heart paired with seasonally sourced vegetables and a no-fuss no-frills presentation

5. Seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, especially at fresh food markets

Not just cheaper but more sustainable, farmer's markets, delis and kitchens sporting seasonal, organic goods are thriving. People going to farms for their greens and paying next to nothing for fresh, delicious fruit and veg picked minutes before from the ground (Oranjezicht City Farm is one such example), as well as farmer's selling their goods at Saturday morning markets enables consumers to not only receive organic supplies, but meet the farmer's too. It's our venture back to nostalgia, where people bought cheese from the dairyman, meat from the butcher and fresh fruit and veg from the grocer. 

6. Consciousness, mindfulness, wellness and compassion - vegetarian, plant-based and veganism is on the rise

In an effort to promote ethical farming, sustainable seafood, less food waste, and conding responsible buying and consumer habits, many people have switched to a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet. Restaurants are offering health-focused alternatives now more than ever, and documentaries, websites, chefs and celebrities are raising awareness to parts of the agricultural supply chain that we have never before been exposed to. Health is at the forefront of many a Millennial's diet, while mindfulness and compassion for the planet govern their philosophies. 

ALSO READ: Through the lentil curtain: a beginner's guide to becoming vegan

7. Food and drinks that engage with the senses

Gastronomic dining, experiential cocktail-making and food as artistry is no longer just progressive, but adored. There's no room for frozen daquiris in this generation. Food that smokes, drinks that are distilled and ingredients that are dehydrated are among the thrill. 

Are you a millenial? Which one of these trends resonate with you the most? SHARE your thoughts with us in the comments section below!


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