It’s no news that food always has played an important role in culture throughout history.
Nowadays, for instance, we can define ourselves by whether or not we can buy organic, fresh, local, etc. Or understand a region of the world better if we know what grows or grazes there. Whether it’s etiquette, the different utensils we use or the assumptions we make about people based on how and what they eat, not much has changed.
Or at least that’s what I thought. Once I finished reading A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food by Eve Turow, it was crystal clear there’s been a seismic shift in perception and behavior toward food and that my generation, lovingly known as the Millennials, is the catalyst for this upheaval in the Zeitgeist. As a Millennial, I may be completely over the term and its blanket assumptions. But as a lover of all things food, I cannot disagree with her.
“Households under 30 spend 75% more than the average household on food at home and 84% more on food away from home.”
When I first read that statement I merely assumed it was because households under 30 had more time on their hands to spend their money. But the fact is, throngs of young adults today aren’t just spending more time and money but energy as well on all things culinary.
Recently I went to a book fair at PS1 here in NYC and was inundated with books, zines, magazines and photography of food. I know I live in an urban mecca , but I’m going out on a limb to say that when it comes to food my experience isn’t that different from the rest of the country. The details may not be the same, but the cultural landscape is. I can’t look at a social feed without encountering a video on how to make food, #foodporn pics, or some food review rant. This is coming from family, friends and acquaintances everywhere.
“While food obsession is perhaps one of the most unique characteristics of the Millennial generation, our failing food system is perhaps the most significant and daunting issue that we do, and will, face.”
At the end of Turow’s deep dive into Generation Yum, I was at a loss. Right now, Millennials hold sway. They’re the ones who can change the terrain of the food industry. Their likes, dislikes, shares, snaps, reviews and more all have an influence on the way food brands shift. Which is why brands must ask themselves: What are the opportunities?
That goes for Millennials too. If food signifies who we are, shouldn’t we wield this power for change? The truth is, small changes eventually can lead to large shifts within culture. Aren’t we beginning to see that with the move to transparency at the big fast food chains? And aren’t we also seeing more small sustainable brands being purchased by large multinationals? Though many factors are in play, it clearly is a sign that times are changing.
If we can eat our way to personal connection, we ought to be able to design and brand that change.