The Eye-Opening Reach Of Gen-X
After several years of talking about the young millennial consumer’s role in the future of specialty food, a nuanced picture is emerging of the core specialty food consumer.
According to the Specialty Food Association’s latest “State of the Specialty Food Industry” research—an annual report done in collaboration with Mintel—consumers ages 35 – 54 are the core specialty food audience, and it’s mature millennials and younger Gen-Xs that are at the heart of it. While millennials still rank the highest in terms of purchasing specialty foods, Gen-Xs report buying across the most categories.
It’s not too difficult to understand the logic behind these groups’ prominence. They are both in their prime earning years and household income has a lot to do with specialty food shopping.
Income aside, Gen-Xs’ engagement itself has been underappreciated. In their late 20s and 30s this group was among a first wave of committed specialty food consumers, early adopters of specialty/organic/natural/premium foods, and was among the core consumer demographic when the State of the Specialty Food Industry research launched in the early aughts. They’ve aged to be strong consumers across categories and proponents of organic, locally-sourced, plant-based, ethical, and sustainable products.
Still, the results from this year’s consumer survey were a bit eye-opening. With the focus on younger consumers as core shoppers in recent years, we expected to see Gen-Z (adults ages 18 – 24) continue to rise in rankings, providing the promising scenario of a continuing stream of engaged consumers who will be specialty food shoppers for many decades to come.
Signs indicate that we’ll get there although Gen-Zs lag as purchasers, according to this year’s results. It’s early days for this group as they grow into adulthood. In fact, as Mintel points out, the population is literally changing each year as more of them become age 18+ and therefore are allowed inclusion in the State of the Industry survey. The good news is that, attitudinally, they align with strong specialty food consumers.
The youngest of the Gen-Zs is age 12 in 2019 and there’s no doubt a lot of eyes will be on how this generation develops as a specialty food consumer group. But why am I talking so much about them in a blog that I said was about Gen-X? Because I expect the latter’s behaviors and drivers to become even more noteworthy. After all, just as there are similarities between millennials and their boomer parents we’ve been tracking for years, as Gen-Zs grow up their consumer habits and attitudes are influenced and impacted by their parents—who by and large are Gen-Xs. Understanding and maintaining the interest of these 40- and 50-somethings has implications for future consumers of specialty food.
You can purchase the State of the Specialty Food Industry Full Report + 5-Year Category Tracking and Forecasts, 2019-2020 Edition here.