Garland Perkins, The Oppenheimer Group
Garland Perkins, The Oppenheimer Group

Millennials have been referred to as the most-traveled generation, and according to the Boston Consulting Group, in the next decade we will become the primary customers of airlines, hotels and travel companies.

Those of us in Generation Y are at a point in life in which we’re making distinct choices about the way we live and what constitutes happiness, with travel near the top of the charts as a high priority.

With our traveling preferences differing a great deal from former generations, these tendencies also shed light on food habits, particularly when it comes to on-the-go eating and a curiosity about ethnic cuisine.

While on the road for business or leisure travel, there are many opportunities for introducing produce items into millennials’ traveling repertoire or creating routine eating occasions by providing easy-to-eat food items with produce as the chief ingredient.

Airports are the most obvious example of a missed opportunity with a plethora of fast-food restaurants and processed snack foods and a meager produce selection consisting of a few staple items such as apples and bananas, a premade salad (often consisting largely of lettuce) or a fruit cup.

Instead, a small-scale produce market, with enticing displays of fruits and vegetables, perhaps highlighting seasonal and local items and a selection of prepared foods, would be a welcome alternative.

Fresh food items and produce could be prepared for immediate consumption or packaged to be eaten later on the plane.

This is particularly promising for millennials with a desire to feel good about their purchases by supporting the local community or those looking for prepared meal options — which is 78% according to research from Acosta.

Similar logic can also be applied to fast-casual restaurants and convenience stores, as Gen Y consumers frequent these spots almost twice as much compared to other generations.

Furthermore, millennials’ adventurous paletes and propensity to try new and exotic foods can in part be attributed to international travel, with 40% of them having traveled abroad in the past three years, according to Experian Marketing.

When trying ethnic foods, we crave authentic dishes, particularly those that might mimic a dish we tried during a previous travel experience.

By enjoying global cuisine and the experiences that go along with it, millennials are frequently subjected to new ways in which produce can be incorporated into meals, as well as trying foreign and unique fruits and vegetables for the first time.

When traveling for leisure millennials are more likely to do so in groups, mostly with extended family or adult friends, and this often results in communal eating and coordinated meal preparation.

I definitely fit the mold of this claim. One of my favorite aspects of traveling with others is the time we spend in the kitchen preparing meals while planning our adventure for the day or recounting experiences we’ve had on the trip so far.

During a recent vacation in Alaska with friends, dinner’s preparation was a team effort and featured fresh salmon caught that day in a local river with seasonal sides, the ultimate authentic eating experience!

These types of occasions are not unusual with my generation, where it feels as if people prefer cooking with friends just as much as they enjoy indulging in a decadent meal in a restaurant.

I am encouraged by these trends and think they are positive developments for the produce industry. With an appreciation of travel and global experiences, as well as international cuisine, opportunities abound for Gen Y consumers to learn more about produce overall, from preparation techniques to unique flavor profiles.

Garland Perkins writes a monthly column on the produce industry from the millennial perspective. She works in marketing for The Oppenheimer Group in its Los Angeles office.

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