Lisa Curtis, Founder & CEO of Kuli Kuli at Whole Foods Market in front of a Local sign about Kuli … [+]
Kuli Kuli (kulikulifoods.com)
The demographics of America are changing. As our population changes, many of the foods that we ate in 2010 are fading in popularity. As a millennial, and a food entrepreneur, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of food. Recently I decided to do a deep dive into the data and interview leading food and beverage experts to better understand how my generation is influencing what Americans will eat in the coming years.
The first thing I found in digging into the research was that a lot of American households look like mine: racially-diverse millennials with no kids and an equal division of labor. No child households – what my partner and I love referring to as DINK life (Dual Income No Kids) – are on the rise. Over 70% of U.S. households have no children under age 18. This is an impressive 23% rise since 1960, according to the US census.
Millennials now comprise the majority of adults, and we’re a lot more egalitarian than the previous generation. Unlike previous generations where women did all of the shopping, men now makeup nearly half of primary shoppers. Last but not least, millennials are the most diverse generation in U.S. history, with a particular rise in the Hispanic population.
This means that the person walking down the grocery store aisle is likely to be shopping for herself, and possibly her partner or roommates. Her parents might have grown up in a different country, and she might be more open to spicier or unique flavors. She is likely to be price sensitive, given that millennials are the poorest households of any generation. Here’s a few ideas on what this new shopper will be looking for in the coming year:
Keep it Simple & Sugar-Free
It is almost comical to watch the number of people who stop in the middle of the grocery store aisle, flip over the package to press the nutritional label close to their face and say either “ugh too much sugar” or “wayy too processed.” I remember my mother shopping in a similar way a few decades ago, but instead of looking at sugar and number of ingredients she was counting calories and grams of fat. We’ve shifted dramatically towards preferring food that contains real, wholesome ingredients and is low in sugar. Often, since we now all know that salt, sugar and fat are the levers to a delicious taste, this means that our low-sugar foods are more likely to be much higher in fat and sodium.
Food as Medicine
Whenever my husband gets a cold, he jokingly asks me to dose him with my potions. These potions aren’t your normal Sudafed. Instead, I make him mixes with elderberry, oregano, and often have him take a few Kuli Kuli Get Well Soon wellness shots. Many of my millennial friends have their own go-to potions, whether that’s eating blueberries for memory before a test or chowing down mushrooms for mental clarity. Researchers describe this trend as “proactive health,” meaning people who seek functional benefits from their food and believe that certain types of foods have medicinal properties.
Seeking Energy SuperPowers
I often wonder what it was like to work in an era where you didn’t always have your work email in your pocket. Millennials have grown up being “always on” – able to work around the clock. This is undeniably exhausting, particularly for women who often come home to their “second shift” of domestic chores. Women do three times as much housework as men, which is likely why women are twice as likely to report being constantly tired. This has led to a rise in products designed to boost energy, particularly for women. Energy drinks are on the rise, and energy-enhancement is showing up in the marketing of everything from supplements to chocolate. In my own company, Kuli Kuli, we’ve found that one of the biggest reasons that people consume our moringa products is for the non-caffeinated, natural, and sustained energy boost that moringa provides.
I can’t remember the last weekday that I ate breakfast at a table. All too often, my breakfast is a bar on the way to work or a bowl of oatmeal that I eat at my standing desk. Convenience has become one of the defining features in how we evaluate food products. We want food that is portable, snackable and not going to leave sticky residue on our fingers or powder on our clothes. This means more bite-sized snacks in smaller bags that slip easily into our purses or gym bags.
Food as an Experience
I have still yet to pay the $38 to visit the Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco. And yet, I feel like I’ve been there because so many of my friends have Instagrammed their way through it. In a world where we pay nearly $40 for what an experience designed for social media, it’s clear that we’ll also pay a bit more for pretty food that looks good on the ‘gram. Expect to see more brightly colored, deliciously photogenic foods pop up in stores soon.
Say what you like about millennials in the workplace, we’re clearly a forced to be reckoned with in the retail space. The pace of innovation has grown and I personally can’t wait for all of the beautifully-designed, ultra convenient, energy-enhancing, function-forward and simple ingredient low sugar products that will be stocking the grocery store shelves of the future.