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Friday, September 24, 2021

The Millennial Age: How we’ve created a ‘foodie’ culture

JENNIFER WU/ AGGIE
JENNIFER WU/ AGGIE

prokos_opWhether you’ve realized it until this point or not, Millennials are obsessed with food. We spend much of our time thinking about what we’re going to eat or where we’re going to dine, and technology has only helped foster this compulsion. Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr all allow us to share recipes, photos of our food and information on the best ingredients. Not to mention, sites like Zagat, FoodPorn and OpenTable assist us in seeking out and making reservations at the best restaurants all around the world.

These features ultimately cater to a high-maintenance Millennial attitude that says, “I want it fast, I want it now and I want it to be the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Social media and technology seem to be culprits in making us this self-absorbed. Through increasingly frequent online activity, we’ve implicitly acknowledged that people care about what we say, where we are and what we’re doing. And we like all of this. We like being trendsetters. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be serial posting on social media about routine daily activities like where or what we decide to eat for lunch. Posting about the best meals we’ve had in a week is a way of virtually flexing our muscles.

Of course, whether or not we are the all-around narcissists we’re often made out to be is a matter of perspective. Still, it couldn’t be more apparent that our specific interest in food helps create a healthier way of life not only for ourselves, but for the future generation as well.

Maria Kiagias, marketing manager for the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), claimed that Millennials, as well as the younger Generation Z, are the focus of most food marketing research today.

“The food service industry is facing massive change in large part due to the demands of Millennials and new technologies,” she said. “An influx of locally sourced foods will override the freezer section, since Millennials demand more ethnic foods and healthy options.”

To put it broadly, Kiagias highlights our openness towards healthy and ethnic food choices as well as our strong aversion to spending money on processed food. As a result of our protests, many companies are making a larger effort to change their processes and products. While Kraft saying that they’re going to pull the yellow dye from their mac and cheese might seem like a small change, more adjustments like these will ultimately help nurture Kiagias’ vision.

Kiagias also cited an interesting phenomenon brought on by social media: the idea that we should be able to account for our food.

“Millennials want to know how their food was prepared and who prepared it. They want a story,” she said.

This could not be more true. Millennial obsession with food extends far beyond just a means of showing off. While we still look for low prices, we ultimately care more about what we are putting in our bodies, assigning the highest value to items labelled organic, locally grown, cage-free, free-range, grass-fed and hormone-free. In this sense, we are the most socially conscious food consumers to date.

You can reach HAYLEY PROKOS at hprokos@ucdavis.edu.

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