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Millennials Seek International Cuisines

Retailers should think globally in developing foodservice choices for younger shoppers. That is a key takeaway from The Power of Foodservice at Retail 2018, a report produced by the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute. It is based on a survey of a national panel of 1,500 United States consumers.

“Millennials of all ages want to experiment more with the world’s cuisines,” says Rick Stein, vice president, Fresh Foods, FMI, in a blog piece for that association. “Their favorites include Mexican, Mediterranean, Japanese/sushi, Thai and Vietnamese.”

48% EMBRACE MEDITERRANEAN

Younger shoppers lead other generations in embracing certain cuisines, the FMI report says. Some 48% of millennials express interest in Mediterranean foods, compared to lesser interest from Gen X (36%) and Boomers (33%). Likewise, 46% of millennials like Japanese/sushi, versus lower levels of interest for Gen X (32%) and Boomers (19%).

Another area in which millennials lead is Indian food, liked by 36% of younger consumers, some 15 percentage points ahead of Gen X and 19 points ahead of Boomers.

Millennials are a generation with high levels of diversity, a fact that may help explain the considerable interest in international cuisines. Some 42% of millennials are considered non-Caucasian, versus 38% for Gen X and 28% for Boomers, according to U.S. Census figures cited in the FMI report.

‘AUTHENTIC’ IS KEY

Younger shoppers show a preference for international foods that haven’t been altered for the U.S. market.

“For millennials and Gen Z, ‘ethnic’ relates to authentic experiences rather than Americanized versions of ethnic cuisines,” the report states.

There is a noticeable similarity between the cuisine preferences of millennials, and those of all shoppers living in urban areas. Urban shoppers express considerable interest in Mediterranean, Japanese/sushi, Thai/Vietnamese, Indian and Middle Eastern.

Retailers should consider ways to enhance international foodservice experiences, even for cuisines now considered mainstream in the United States, according to the FMI report.

“An opportunity lies in elevating the experience surrounding these cuisines.”

It cites the pizza category, and includes Nielsen data that puts deli pizza at annual sales at about $716 million.

“In pizza, an elevated experience would lie in made-to-order, wood-fired pizza, gluten-free crust options or the use of organic ingredients.”

GREATER SELECTION DESIRED

FMI’s Stein says younger consumers show an interest in variety that transcends particular cuisines or categories.

“Younger millennials (ages 18 to 27) expect you to give them a better drink selection in foodservice, and that includes a good selection of different beers and wines,” he says.  “Among the options they would like to see are more vegetarian choices and chef-inspired meals. They demand more than just chicken when it comes to your deli meat selection and they like to see menus change with the seasons.”

The report points to deli flavor growth trends, citing Nielsen data, with attributes such as healthy and differentiated scoring high.

“Sales trends in flavor growth reflect consumers’ desire for better-for-you items (oven-roasted versus fried) as well as the trend toward nostalgic, fun and flavorful versus plain and traditional.

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