2016 Food Trends Series: #7 Don’t Call It Ethnic

The Millennial generation is setting the standard for future generations about the acceptance of the new normal.

Welcome back as we continue our series on 2016 Millennial Food Trends. As we introduced in week 1, the emergence of the Millennial Mindset® is starting to shape how all generations look at products being consumed today.  With this in mind, our team read through piles of trends reports including Huffington Post, Food Navigator, Nation’s Restaurant News, Kantar, Fuse Marketing, Convenience Store Decisions, Mintel and many more to pull forward the trends worth paying attention to. It all leads to one extremely important insight: Brands and manufacturers must strive to have “sympathy,” which is deeper than just having “empathy.”

The 8th trend we studied, Don’t Call It Ethnic, explores the latest in millennial dining culture.

Gen Z is on the rise and will represent 40 percent of the population by 2020. “Ethnic” cuisine is their cuisine. They are the last generation to be mostly non-Hispanic white at 52.9 percent. It’s a multicultural generation and is more likely to prefer cuisines like Korean or Vietnamese to American or Southern. They won’t go out for “Mexican,” but will look for authentic tacos. Eating adventurously with bolder flavors will become the new norm.

Brands must better understand culinary needs for this generation. One way to do this is to immerse the consumer 
in the culture of the food they are eating. Think about an immersive trip where you would travel to key feeder countries and understand how people are using your category in their native origins. Then, replicate this same immersion in US cities such as Miami, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and New
York to see how these same groups have acculturated the category in the US. What do they consider heritage foods? What usage and preparation have they adopted or evolved? How are they looking at flavor and form from foodservice to in-home? We are discovering that consumers are using products in very different ways than how they are being served up today.



Brad is an expert in private label and challenger brand food marketing for Barkley, an integrated marketing and advertising agency. He specializes in working with manufacturing-driven food companies that have aspirations to develop a consumer insight-led strategies to help drive innovation and growth.

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