New Breakfast Consumer

Boomers on a Mission

Baby Boomers: they’re not your father’s Gramma and Grampa. They may be retired, but as a group, they are anything but retiring. Generally seen as the most active, well-educated and health conscious generation, Boomers are just as likely to be skiing or running for office as babysitting the grandkids. They tend to be physically active, nutritionally savvy and interested in gathering new knowledge and skills. Boomers are often more affluent, more open-minded and more open to change than their predecessors. “Today’s seniors are living longer, are more diverse, tech savvy, and lead a more active lifestyle than they did a few decades ago,” says Fiona O’Donnell, Mintel’s senior lifestyles and leisure analyst.

According to the newest population projections, 2015 is the year Millennial are expected to squeak past Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Still, Boomers can take comfort in knowing their current spending power of $2.1 trillion dollars easily trumps the younger generation’s $170 billion.

This is the generation that backpacked its way across Europe and volunteered for the Peace Corps, gaining an appreciation for new foods and other cultures. Their relationship with food continued to be more exploratory than that of previous generations. As they began to experience the pains of aging, many have made nutrition education a priority and view foods as a part of a holistic treatment for aging. Foods promising wellness and anti-aging benefits, like whole grains, antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetarian proteins, and nutrient-dense eggs and yogurt are on their shopping lists.

This has led to a change in Boomers’ food shopping habits. The global market for functional foods or super foods is expected to reach $130 billion in 2015, driven by health conscious Boomers. Given the prevalence of heart disease, a continuing parade of new items claiming to be “heart healthy” or containing the latest super food is a given. Euromonitor International predicts advances in ingredient technology will soon allow foods to be fortified with minimal effect on taste and texture.

Boomer restaurant visits are trending up, with an increase of 8.6 percent between 2009 and 2013. These people have both the will to dine away from home and the resources to do it. Nutrition is important but the opportunity to try new foods and flavors is also embraced enthusiastically. One unkind aspect of aging is that taste and smell receptors diminish, which means bigger, more robust flavors are a win with this group. Spices, sauces and add-ins that are so integral to popular Latin and Asian cuisines are a natural draw.

In its 2014 The Generation Consumer Trend Report, Technomic notes that breakfast matters a great deal to Boomers and they spend more away-from-home dollars on breakfast than any other generation. This ties in nicely with the ethnic flavors and increased heat currently trending on breakfast menus. The Breakfast Bánh Mì at Myers + Chang in Boston, made with soy-glazed bacon, soft sunny-side up eggs, shredded pickled carrot and daikon, pickled jalapeños, cilantro sprigs and sriracha aioli is one example of dishes that appeal to both the health needs and the taste desires of this group. For a simpler, yet still exotic breakfast, Elizabeth Street Café in Austin makes Sticky Rice With Ginger Sausage & Poached Eggs with herb salad, sriracha and hoisin, and for something more traditional with a kick, the Avocado Scramble with melted Monterey Jack, cornmeal fried avocado and a spicy Creole mustard hollandaise and chopped green onions at The Porch Restaurant and Bar in Sacramento should keep to a diet but open some eyes.

More than 25 percent of Boomers say they are on a diet. But for this group, the word “diet” means much more than foods reduced in fat or sugar, as they also demand the extra benefits of nutrient density, found in foods like whole grains, fruits and eggs. Today’s Boomers are searching for the fountain of vitality. In the words of Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst, “Some of it comes down to attitude. The Boomers happen to be very different than their predecessors. They act younger. They eat younger. They want to live forever.”

Millennial Evolution

Much has been written about Millennials and much more will be written, as they are destined to become the most influential consumer group in the U.S. Currently accounting for 22 to 24 percent of restaurant spending, Millennials will represent 40 percent of restaurant revenues by 2020.

The attitude of “If you build it, they will come” doesn’t work with Millennials. Good operators used to offer good food and that was enough. But Millennials have tossed a wrench into the time-honored works of that tradition, avoiding in significant numbers the segments not fitting their requirements.

Beyond food provenance and farming techniques used, operators must pay attention to the group’s ecological sympathies, technological demands and social agendas. And they must do so while providing fresh and exciting food that is ordered, created and delivered in ways this group finds acceptable.

These torch bearers for locally grown, sustainably raised and non-processed foods are mindful of their own health as well as that of the planet. As America’s most racially diverse generation, they have a penchant for adventurous and ethnically diverse dining, as well as a liberal social bent. They view customizing their food as a need, not a luxury. An operation that understands Millennials is the Third Coast Spice Café in Chesterton, IN. The build-your-own omelets option offers 23 locally-grown/organic meats, veggies and cheeses, and seven chef-made spicy or savory veggie relishes and sauces. Using sustainable and/or biodegradable packing for take-outs, Third Coast embodies all good things to Millennials.

These traits have also led to fast-growing new chains. Blaze Pizza was, quite literally, made for Millennials. Beginning with fresh, made-from-scratch dough, guests can custom design their pizza with any or all of the 37 fresh meats, cheeses, veggies and sauces. After being “fast fire’d” in a stone hearth oven and done in three minutes, pizzas are packaged in recycled or sustainable materials. Personally designed delights of fresh ingredients delivered in recycled packaging: pure millennial heaven.

Add an egg to your burger? Of course! Mix fresh kale into your omelet? Why not! Customization allows vegetarian proteins like eggs to replace meats, spice levels to be personalized and unusual mix-ins to be added. Millennials want what they want, how they want it, when they want it. And with the size of their influence, restaurants are moving toward giving them just that.

Researchers have identified the growth in fresh and less processed foods as proof of Millennials’ effect on the rest of us. In 2014 The NPD Group reported that consumption of fresh foods, defined as fruit, vegetables, fresh meat, poultry, fish and eggs, grew 20 percent between 2003 and 2013. Those foods are expected to grow fastest at breakfast, with a 9 percent increase in morning “fresh food eatings” by 2018.

Research from The Hartman Group quantified the ongoing changes in grocery shopper decision making. The clean label movement spawned increasing numbers of food label readers, and Hartman researchers found that between 2007 and 2013 consumers looking for products containing only ingredients they recognize increased by 53 percent. Those searching for the shortest lists of ingredients rose by 127 percent.

These newer consumer attitudes can be seen in Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts removing dough conditioners and whitener additives, Cheerios eliminating genetically modified ingredients and Panera Bread’s commitment to remove artificial ingredients from its entire menu by the end of 2016.

An increasing number of food bloggers and chefs are devoted to promoting healthy, nutrient-dense foods that are also delicious, cutting down on fat and sugar while creating craveable and exciting food. Mark Erickson, provost at the Culinary Institute of America and a certified master chef, has said, “We’re beginning to get to where Eastern culture has been for thousands of years, which is the idea that food is medicine, and we cannot disassociate our health with what we eat.”

Millennials’ desire for fresh and non-processed foods is driving a sea change in America’s eating habits, well beyond the boundaries of their age group. In the not too distant future, nutrient-dense, higher protein and vitamin-packed foods will be the craveable ones. This is an attitudinal evolution in progress, and evolutions only move forward.

Hispanic Table Stakes

Our country is home to a Hispanic population second only to that of Mexico. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics in the U.S. numbered 54 million (17% of the population) as of July 2013, making it indisputably the largest ethnic demographic group in the U.S., and projected to reach 129 million (31% of the U.S. total) by 2060.

If those numbers aren’t enough to grab marketers’ attention, the Selig Center for Economic Growth projects this group will control U.S. buying power of $1.5 trillion in 2015. But American businesspeople wanting to connect with this demographic may be surprised to find out who they’re actually trying to reach:

  • As of 2012, 65 percent of the then current Hispanic population was U.S. born and that percentage can only rise, as births in recent years far outweigh the number of immigrants.
  • The median age for U.S. Hispanics is currently 28 and trending downward, reflecting the importance of U.S. births to population growth.
  • A full 62 percent are under 35 years old vs. only 47 percent for the U.S. population as a whole.

“Marketers lose sight of the fact that the majority of Hispanics in the U.S. are born here,” says Amy Sousa, ethnographic analyst at The Hartman Group. “Marketers seem to be fixated on targeting the smallest segment of Hispanic consumers – those who are less educated, still learning English and not yet fully acculturated. This is not where the greatest opportunities lie.”

Reaching the Hispanic consumer is similar to marketing to Millennials. Why? Because the majority of them are, in fact, U.S. born and raised Millennials with all of the traits of that group. Both groups:

  • View dining as a social event – Hispanics with family first; Millennials with friends first
  • Enjoy exploring new cuisines and like to be adventurous in their dining
  • Value natural, fresh, quality food over packaged foods and enjoy sharing it
  • Are very digital in their communications and over-index on the use of smart phones for accessing the Internet (Hispanics = 60%; Millennials = 50%)

Recent immigrants naturally cherish the foods they ate growing up because it reminds them of home. To become familiar with new foods in their new country is a part of their acculturation. But second-generation kids are already home, and the food of their homeland includes pancakes, burgers, smoothies and chicken tenders with dipping sauce. They love their abuela’s chilaquiles, but a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit eaten at a quick-serve restaurant (QSR) with their family is just as much a part of their world.

Breakfast is an important part of the day for Hispanics, and it continues to be a great opportunity to build traffic. This is particularly true of QSRs, as they are favorite Hispanic places to dine with friends or family. Eighty-four percent of Hispanics’ restaurant visits are made to a QSR, most often for breakfast or snacks. In fact, 47 percent of Hispanic customers recently ate breakfast at a QSR. During the same time period, only 30 percent of all others did. Sixty-nine percent of Hispanic consumers say restaurants are an ideal place to spend time with family and when dining out the food itself is not as important as the family being together.

Hispanics’ traditional breakfasts differ by culture and country, but many start with some preparation of eggs with beans. Mexicans add spicy tomato sauce, tortillas, peppers, onion or chorizo; Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans add rice and tortillas; Guatemalans combine them with tortillas, fresh fruit, cheese and sautéed plantains; Dominicans partner them with mashed plantains and tortillas; and Colombians add sausage and arepas, small corn flour patties. Not only are all manner of similar breakfast items found on U.S. menus, but it’s a relatively small culinary step to sit down to a cheese omelet with peppers, onion and salsa at a diner or a bacon, egg and cheese muffin at a QSR.

Their youth and rising population make Hispanic-American consumers a must to attract. Reach out to them as the Millennials many of them are, but understand the importance of connecting with family over a meal. Why not fill tables of eight along with those tables for two?