Millennial Culinary Curiosity: Generation Foodie Fuelling Generation Next

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” -Hippocrates

My Slice of Happiness

A long history of working in both food marketing and education allow me to contribute, communicate and convey my respect for the land and all it offers. It is vital for everyone to be aware that our food is not infinite. If it were, there would not be an issue with global hunger. Part of that comes from greed, but a larger part is connected to limited natural resources. The overall quality of human life comes from nature itself, making it crucial to accept that nature does not gain from humanity—it’s quite the opposite. Whether we as a species choose to understand this in terms of our daily food consumption is questionable. However, our connection to nature makes us all individually responsible for the sustained future of our natural environment…and, by extension, the future of food, too.

The food industry is not altruistic; it’s driven by corporations that use marketing, labelling and storytelling to increase their global presence, and of course, profit margins. This can be seen in the case of PepsiCo who spent 3.1 to 3.6 times more on advertising between 2013-2015 on marketing activities than they did on research and development.[1] Our daily food choices need to be based on knowledge gained from an honest space, not corporate advertising designed for profit. My brand, “The Culinary Celt,” offers balanced food-related information, revealing the more authentic stories worth telling in relation to food. 

You Are What You Eat

We have all heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” This common saying helped to inform my understanding on the importance of food in relation to our health and happiness. What we eat ultimately becomes a very powerful symbol of who we are.[2] Having worked in the media industry for the past twenty years, I can genuinely say that the most powerful element in advertising is the truth. Using honesty to expose the truth about food—educating multiple generations in the process—is what my brand is all about.  

Generation Foodie

Following the demographic cohorts of Generation X (1964-1972) and the Baby Boomer (1945-1963), the Millennial generation (1973-1999), also known as Generation Y, are changing the way we eat. No other generation has paid this much attention to food. Millennials are reshaping how food is consumed by taking their conversations online and defying the food supply chain by emphasizing sustainability, influencing the rise in plant-based diets and making farm-to-table a cultural ethos.

From vegan taquitos to quinoa with butternut squash, the Millennial generation will eat it. But first they need to photograph the dish and Instagram it, tweet it and share it for all the world to see. Millennials will then document the progression of it with a short Vine or other form of video hosting service. Finally, when finished eating, Millennials will rate it and leave a review/reviews using their smartphone. The Millennial generation really have become the foodie generation through their use of social media platforms, creating togetherness through food culture.

As a cohort, Millennials are dissimilar to other generations when it comes to food. Over half a million Millennials live in the Republic of Ireland alone.[3] This generation has now outnumbered the Baby Boomer generation in the workplace, giving Millennials purchasing power and the ability to shape new food trends.[4] It remains to be seen if this influence will create a ripple-effect and make an impact on inter-generational food trends. Peer-reviewed surveys show that being an experience-driven generation, Millennials want adventure in their lives.[5] Research in the area of Millennial-travel trends highlights food and culinary experiences as the top motivation for travel.[6]

Survive and Thrive

There are five basic physiological needs that our bodies require to survive: Air, food, water, shelter, and sleep. In relation to food, our choices must be adequate in terms of nutritional standards and calorie intake in order to sustain life. As well as giving us life. food also gives us comfort and pleasure. We can often use food to compensate or punish ourselves, thereby making daily dietary choices critically important to our overall wellbeing. The body of evidence linking diet and mental health is accelerating at a rapid pace.[7] The quality of the food that we eat not only impacts our physical health, but it also plays a critical role on our mental health and wellbeing. When our bodies encounter a food substance it does not like it will experience an immune response. Negative food consumption encounters can cause physical stress and lead to chronic disease while positive food consumption encounters can lead to a more happy and healthy life. Medical professionals are now realising that dietary changes can be an important tool in treating things like situational depression. This is mainly due to the fact that the nerve cells in the gut manufacture 80% to 90% of serotonin, “the master happiness molecule” in the body.[8] This gut-related scientific research shows us that eating well not only helps to improve our mood it can also give us more energy, ultimately shaping the way we feel.

Our Relationship with Food

It is essential to take the time to consider the foods that fuel our body as the relationship between food and how it is consumed can be a cornerstone to inner happiness. It may seem strange to refer to our connection with food as a relationship but bear in mind a relationship is ‘the way in which two or more people or things are connected.[9]

Being happy is important to Millennials. “#Happy” is listed in the top 30 Instagram hashtags (472-million), followed closely by “#nature” (364-million) and “#food” (299-million). So, it is vital to truly appreciate food and understand how it provides for our ongoing wellbeing. Happiness can be achieved by eating mindfully and appreciating all the nourishing substances that we put into our bodies. Sensible eating energises and respects the body and our food choices can also have a profound impact on our emotions.[10]

What is a Food Experience?

Food experiences are encounters between people and food. These experiences happen every day but they are often missed as we rush around. Currently up to 80% of healthcare costs in the EU are caused by chronic diseases, many of which relate to poor diets[11]. Therefore, it is imperative to take the time to slow down and connect with nature as the food we eat can greatly enhance our experience of food.

I attended the annual Atlas Conference in Denmark in 2018.[12]  One of the guest speakers presented on the need to, “Retrain in the Art of Noticing.” It reminded me that we can all become overly busy at times and drift to a disconnected space. Millennials tend to collect food experiences and talk about those experiences in a way that previous generations talked about travel and collected material items.[13] This cultural shift endorses a deeper understanding of food via the accelerated interest in sharing food images and experiences.

Food choices are now viewed by the Millennial generations as a core part of their personal brand, making the food experience increasingly important for them both individually and collectively.

Food experiences can take many forms:

  • Preparing a homemade meal for family and friends
  • Growing/collecting herbs/vegetables
  • Visiting a local farmers market
  • Going out to your favourite restaurant for a meal

There are so many moments throughout the day to experience and appreciate food more mindfully. It is important to create the environment and opportunity to slow down and tune into the edible gifts of nature that can be savoured in our everyday life. Thanks to Millennial culture, every generation is now more aware of just how to do this—particularly through food. And yet, we as individuals can still fail to realise the importance of food in terms of our happiness. If we knew what went into our food, being more mindful of things like where it comes from, we would be happier, healthier, and have a better connection to nature. Increased awareness of the seasons and how nature effects our food systems is key to sustainability of food sources. Instead of ordering take out or purchasing prepared food in excess packaging, cooking from scratch using fresh, local ingredients helps to not only support those food systems, but also helps the environment while increasing individual health and happiness. 

Food is Social

Food is almost always shared. People eat together making mealtime an event where families and friends can come together. Because of the centrality of food, it becomes the perfect vehicle for an expression of altruism—symbolic of love and security as well as a manifestation of both.[14] That is why it is important to understand how the sharing of food resources as well as the use of food as a societal support behaviour increases interpersonal closeness[15].

A current trend now in contemporary society is the need for social experiences.[16]  This is evident from Millennial culture and the social context it provides, particularly the  “foodie” trend. Increasing evidence shows us that social influences on eating are powerful and pervasive making the social context of eating an important factor underlying the development and maintenance of health.[17] We eat differently when we are with other people compared to when we eat alone. Decades of research in this area have highlighted the fact that other people influence our food intake and choices in a variety of ways.[18] Our food choices tend to correlate to our social connections; we adapt to the behaviour of others via shared cultural expectations and environmental cues.[19] Millennials are recorded as subscribing to the notion that food and drink can help create more opportunities for shared experiences. This foodie generation enjoys capturing and sharing all of their significant and insignificant food and drink moments.[20]

As a result of the influence of Millennial culture, Western society is slowly evolving into an age of product-first, marketing-second in terms of food consumption patterns. Millennial consumers drive this paradigm shift by demanding better food from environmentally conscious, ethical sources, seeing beyond corporate marketing campaigns. Challenger brands like Sweetgreen are leading this new cultural movement  through well-crafted, wholesome, sustainable products.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Tips for consuming better food:

  • Start with small steps: Learn to cook
  • Get inspired by home cooking by developing recipes
  • Stock up on healthy food items and engage in weekly food-prep
  • Find the right food replacements by eating local, seasonal foods instead of “convenience” eating (packaged foods, fast-food, etc.)
  • Organise your kitchen
  • Grow your own food
  • Make health and wellness a higher priority than the cost of things like organic food

Eating to feel better does not mean having to give up comfort food. Being healthy is about balance. Seeking out local, seasonal foods to fill our needs in a more environmentally conscious way increases overall health and happiness. As the world grows smaller and communication becomes even more subtle, the real test is having the courage to be authentic when it comes to our food choices. In order to sustain and respect our natural resources for future generations to enjoy, we cannot let global food corporations dictate what is good and what is bad through mass marketing (for their own gains, not ours).

Millennials, or the “foodie” generation, are at the forefront of the 21st-century paradigm shift in our relationship with food. And, the world will eventually be healthier and happier for it….

Published in the Mental Health for Millennial Book Series (Vol.3) by Book Hub Publishing http://www.bookhubpublishing.com

References

[1] (Lee, 2017) “Food Product vs Food Marketing”

[2] (Fox, 2003) “Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective”

[3] (Bord Bia, 2014) “Understanding Millennials for Better Connections”

[4] (Deloitte, 2017) “Millennial Survey Report 2017”

[5] (Bord Bia, 2014) “Understanding Millennials for Better Connections”

[6] (Chen, 2017) “A Guide to Culinary Tourism’s Top Travel Trends”, Travel Age West

[7] (Dash, Clarke, Berk, Jacka, 2015) “The Gut Microbiome and Diet in Psychiatry: Focus on Depression”

[8] (Perlmutter, 2015) “Brain Maker”

[9] Oxford Dictionary 

[10] (Stair, 2016) “Food and Mood: Eating your Way out of Depression”

[11] (De Schutter, 2019) “Towards A Common Food Policy for the European Union”

[12] (Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research Conference, 2018) “Destination Dynamics”

[13] (Bord Bia, 2014) “Understanding Millennials for Better Connections”

[14] (Fox, 2003) “Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective”

[15] (Hamburg, Finkenauer, Schuengel, 2014) “Food For Love: The Role of Food Offering in Empathic Emotion Regulation”

[16] (Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research Conference, 2018) “Destination Dynamics”

[17] (Higgs, Thomas, 2016) “Social Influences on Eating”

[18] (Herman, Roth, Polivy, 2003) “Effects of the Presence of Others on Food Intake: A Normative Interpretation”

[19] (Higgs, Thomas, 2016) “Social Influences on Eating”

[20] (Bord Bia, 2014) “Understanding Millennials for Better Connections”

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