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America’s foodies have a well-known love for the type of culinary adventure and food tourism that takes the taste buds on a journey through the new, the novel, and the unique. But foodies aren’t alone in their admiration for gastronomic gnarliness. Consumers from all walks of life are gravitating toward the latest culinary trends and dietary fads, though generally to a lesser extent than their foodie counterparts. In the recently-released report, Foodies in the U.S.: Opportunities for Restaurants and Retail, 2nd Edition, Packaged Facts data reveals a striking trend in the way American consumers think about food based on growth between 2007 and 2014 in the number of consumers who “strongly agree” with statements expressing attitudes toward food. Five of the seven statements with the fastest-growing number of adherents contain the word “new” and relate to new food products, recipes, and drinks.
“Undoubtedly, one of the threads running through the food culture today is an unending quest for new and exciting food products and experiences,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Foodies in particular are deeply immersed in searching for the next big thing in the food world.”
Packaged Facts data reveals foodies are more likely than adults on average to strongly agree that good food is really important to them (76 percent vs. 41 percent). However, there is an even greater gap between foodies and the average consumer when it comes to keeping up with the latest food trends, being the first to try out new food products, liking to experience new flavors and ingredients they’ve never tried before, and liking to try out new food products. Not surprisingly, survey data in the report also show that a taste for gourmet food differentiates foodies from the average consumer. More than half of foodies like to eat gourmet food whenever they can, compared to less than a quarter of adults on average.
In the report, Packaged Facts pinpoints a subsection of foodies identified as the Trendsetter Foodie segment, consisting of foodies who “agree a lot” with the statements that “I like to try new recipes” and “I like to try out new food products. Trendsetter Foodies total around 29 million and represent about 12 percent of the adult population. Whether Millennials, Gen-Xers or Boomers, Trendsetter Foodies share a common underlying desire not only to seek out new food experiences and products, but to try new things of all kinds, whether shopping at a new store, wearing new clothing styles, or buying new gadgets. Moreover, there is a noteworthy similarity in the eating habits, food preferences, food shopping habits, and attitudes toward cooking at home of Trendsetter Foodies of all ages.
Packaged Facts National Online Survey data reveal that foodies have an above-average likelihood of being under the age of 35 and thus falling within the Millennial generation, and Millennials account for around 36 percent of the Trendsetter Foodie segment. Millennials have embraced the foodie culture and absorbed it into the broader youth culture to the point that in many ways the foodie and youth cultures have become one. A preference for globalized food styles, a quest for intense and exciting flavors and textures, an unending search for what’s trending in the restaurant world, an attachment to farm-to-table restaurants, a cascade of Instagram posts of “what we’re eating right now,” the food truck fad, and locavore food shopping habits are just a few of the hallmarks of Millennial foodie fixations.
Naturally there is good reason for packaged foods marketers, grocers and foodservice executives to ramp up their efforts to attract foodies from the Millennial generation. However, it is also important to recognize that Millennials are not the only influential consumer segment among foodies and that marketing to foodies does not mean marketing to Millennials exclusively. Boomers represent 32 percent of Trendsetter Foodies and thus are nearly as important as Millennials in this consumer segment. Packaged Facts advises that marketers need to recognize that while the demographic characteristics of Trendsetter Foodies reflect those of various age groups as a whole, the psychographic profiles of Millennial and Boomer Trendsetter Foodies are remarkably similar. As previously noted, there is a noteworthy convergence within a broad spectrum of attitudes and behaviors on the part of Trendsetter Foodies across all age groups.