The U.S. population is changing with Boomers aging, Generation Z and Millennials entering new life stages, and Hispanics making up a growing share of the younger generations, and these shifts will have a major impact on the country’s eating behaviors over the next five years, finds a new study by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The influence of Boomers and older on eating patterns will fade as their households and populations shrink, and the impact of Generation Z (ages 0­–23) and Millennials (ages 24–37), which made up over half of the U.S. population in 2013, will significantly increase, according to NPD’s recently released “The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018?”

Generation Z and Millennials are driving changes with their approach to food choice and preparation, finds the study, which presents a five-year forecast for 200-plus in-home food and beverage-related behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics. These generational groups want more involvement, not necessarily more complexity, in preparing their food and meals, particularly at breakfast. Breakfast foods that are perceived to be fresher and require more prep or cooking, like eggs, hot cereal, and center plate proteins, are projected to grow by 8 percent over the next five years. Use of additives, another example that the younger generations want to have a say in the final output of their prepared foods, is expected to grow among Generation Z and Millennial groups by 9 and 8 percent respectively over the next five years.

The tastes and choices of U.S. Hispanics, which make up a large percentage of the Generation Z and Millennial groups, will also continue to grow in importance over the next five years. NPD’s The Future of Eating research suggests Hispanics, including those born in the U.S., will continue to prepare and cook traditional Latino foods. The consumption of Hispanic foods, excluding frozen, is forecast to increase by 7 percent over the next five years among U.S. Hispanic Millennials. This group’s preference is also for foods that are fresh and natural and that enable the cook to control the flavoring of the end product.

On the other end of the age spectrum, the Baby Boomer generation is aging, considering retirement, becoming empty nesters, and developing health ailments, all of which are typically associated with major changes in how food and beverage consumption is approached. While shrinking in size, this generation is still too large to ignore especially given their expected changes, finds NPD’s study. This group will be less driven by the latest fad and more by what they need to sustain their health and lifestyles. Whole grains, protein, and calcium, or low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium will be important to younger and older Boomer groups now and in the coming years.

“Generation Z, Millennials, and Hispanics will be the growth drivers of this country’s eating patterns over the next five years,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “This is a pivotal time for manufacturers and retailers to gain their favor as many of their habits are being formed now. Most are still at a life stage when their behaviors are flexible and they are receptive.”

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