Young adults will eat more salads and other fresh foods but fewer ready-to-eat and microwaveable meals in coming years.
Driven by emerging preferences of younger generations and the rising influence of Hispanic consumers, fresh food demand will grow faster than the rate of population increases in the next five years, according to a new study.
Chicago-based NPD Group, in a report called “The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018?” said those demographic shifts will have a major effect on the country’s eating behaviors over the next five years.
“Generation Z, Millennials, and Hispanics will be the growth drivers of this country’s eating patterns over the next five years,” Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst, said in a news release.
Fresh food — defined as fresh fruits and vegetables, refrigerated meats and eggs — will grow in demand by 6% from 2013 to 2018, compared with 4% population growth over that five year period.
Consumption of fresh foods has grown by 20% to more than 100 billion “eatings” from 2003 to 2013. The largest growth in fresh food consumption occurred at breakfast, according to the study.
The study said the influence of boomers and older Americans 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.
Generation Z consumers will show a 11.1% increase in fresh food demand from 2013 to 2018, well above the 2% projected population growth increase for the group in those five years. The NPD report said salads, “quick-assembly” meals (meal kits and sandwiches) will increase in demand among Gen Z consumers, while ready-to-eat foods and microwaveable foods are expected to decline in demand.
Generation Y, or Millennials, will fuel a 7.5% increase in demand from 2013 to 2018, compared with their projected population increase of 2%.
The period of years from young adulthood to age 40 is time when consumers most increase their fresh food consumption, according to the NPD study. After consumers age past 40, increases in fresh food consumption are slower.
Fresh food demand by Generation X will grow just 1.2% over the five-year period, while their numbers will decline by 1%, according to the NPD report.
Younger baby boomers will see their numbers decline by 3% from 2013 to 2018, while demand for fresh foods will decline by 0.5%. Older baby boomers will show a 6% decline in population and a 4.6% drop in fresh food consumption.
The top fresh foods for Generation Z in 2013, according to NPD, are fresh chicken, eggs, potatoes, bananas, apples, bacon, carrots and hot dogs.
The tastes and choices of U.S. Hispanics, which the study says 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 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.