On the surface, most of us crave many of the same foods: ice cream, chocolate, grilled cheese, chips. However, different generations can crave different foods─and, as importantly, different incarnations of those foods─for different reasons.
How does this play out with comfort food, a topic near and dear to consumers’ hearts in times of economic turmoil and financial stress? Do Boomers and their Gen Y offspring turn to the same foods for comfort? How about Gen Xers, raising children in a new world of healthful options and global flavors? And what role do venerable food brands play in definitions of comfort food by generation?
To uncover some answers, the Center for Culinary Development conducted a national online Generational Comfort Food Survey . By aligning survey findings with the comfort food trends we have been tracking, it became clear that comfort foods are evolving. And that’s because consumers’ tastes and values are evolving, along with health goals and personal/professional lifestyles.
So what’s new? Here are three overarching dynamics that are framing change in the comfort food arena:
Consumers of all ages are enjoying sweet breakfast foods in after-dinner slots.
This data-rich report combines tracking of today’s culinary trends with fresh consumer insights. Manufacturers and foodservice operators can rarely go wrong with savvy catering to consumers’ comfort food cravings. To really hit the target, look to our trend translations for a world of contemporary comfort food opportunities.
• • • The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is an indispensable tool for those whose job it is to stay abreast of what's hot - or what will be - in the food world!
Using the Center for Culinary Development’s (CCD) signature Trend Mapping technique, a validated method identifying which culinary trends are “gaining traction” and which are simply flashes in the pan, each report concentrates on a theme, or trend, that is affecting the food industry, and then looks at the emerging and established ingredients, cooking styles and products along the Trend Map that are driving this theme.
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In the News
Today’s Generations Redefining Comfort Food
New York, August 10, 2009 — Aging Boomers and diverse Gen Yers are finding new ways to fulfill their comfort food cravings, according to the Generational Comfort Food Culinary Trend Mapping Report co-published by the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and Packaged Facts. The report is based in part on a national survey of over 3,700 people about their comfort food preferences, which was conducted by CCD in June 2009. The survey confirmed that consumers are passionate about their comfort foods, many of which stem from childhood favorites. In today’s changing food world, however, these dishes are evolving in sync with new values and lifestyles.
“Childhood comfort food is getting a make-over according to who’s eating it,” says CCD CEO Kimberly Egan. “Each generation has different needs and tastes, including more healthful fare, gourmet ingredients and bolder flavors, which are reflected in their go-to comfort foods.”
While the survey showed that the overall food category preferred by all ages was sweets, individual responses revealed a more nuanced generational portrait of comfort food preferences. For example, while many participants craved chicken soup, Gen Yers also turned to Vietnamese pho. Gen Xers gravitate to beloved branded foods while Boomers are skewing premium but keeping an eye on health.
And what are the overarching trends driving today’s beloved and evolving comfort foods? We identified three:
Contemporary quality. All three generational cohorts are all seeking higher quality food experiences and these are surfacing in updated versions of old favorites. Today’s pies are farmers’ market fresh; new leaner meats appear in meatloaf; casseroles are loaded with seasonal veggies; and mac ‘n’ cheese arrives with gourmet twists. Additional upgrades include fresh herbs and exotic spices, artisan cheeses, and natural and organic ingredients.
The new diversity. Although Boomers have a decided taste for exotic flavors, diverse Generation Y is truly adopting global comfort dishes like Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho), sushi, and Indian and Thai curries. In addition to these new comfort meals, global flavors are enhancing comfort classics.
Balanced eating. Boomers and Gen Xers are trying to balance indulgent comfort foods with more healthful versions using fresh vegetables, sustaining whole grains and leaner meats. Gen Y grew up learning nutrition basics and now craves fresh fruit for a healthful burst and cheese in all forms for a protein and flavor boost.
Opportunities abound for food marketers to create enticing, up-to-date versions of the comfort foods every generation passionately craves.
The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is co-published by the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts.
About Packaged Facts - Packaged Facts publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer industries, including consumer goods and retailing, foods and beverages, demographics, pet and financial products. Packaged Facts also offers a full range of custom research services.
About the Center for Culinary Development - CCD is a full-service food and beverage development and research company that blends culinary creativity with strategic marketing expertise for successful product innovation.