January 5/San Francisco/Prepared Foods Magazine -– Gen Y, the largest demographic in history -- consisting of approximately 75 million Americans between 13-28 years of age -- is passionate about big flavors that pack a punch. They are drawn to bold and complex flavors that turn mealtime into a culinary trip around the world. According to a recent study by the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) exploring Gen Y’s attitudes and eating behaviors, more than 50% eat global foods, and 46% like to layer flavors and customize recipes. For the well-cultivated palates of this influential group, food is an adventure where unusual ingredients combine to create exotic taste sensations with each bite.

Layers of Flavors
According to Kimberly Egan, CEO/principal of CCD, “Capturing the interest and imagination of Gen Y requires foodservice leaders and consumer packaged goods manufacturers to craft a heightened eating experience by using layers of flavors, unique textures or emerging global ingredients.”

Gen Ys, or Millennials, also look for ways to use varied ingredients to give old favorites a mouth-watering lift. CCD’s Gen Y study participants report that they “like twists on normal things. You’re expecting something familiar but sort of exciting.” Another Gen Y added, “It’s a dish you know you like, but it’s done in a way you wouldn’t do at home.”

Finding these bold flavors is part of the fun for Gen Ys. Some 39% of those surveyed said they enjoy shopping for unique foods and ingredients, and 35% consider themselves connoisseurs of gourmet foods. Nearly one-third (29%) are on the hunt for foods that are trendy or different in their quest for powerful, delicious and remarkable dining experiences.

Customization is Key
“We learned that Gen Ys are not only ‘Flavor Cravers,’ but they also want to customize what they eat to make it uniquely their own,” said Kara Nielsen, CCD’s trendologist. “They get a thrill from the rush of flavor combined just they way they want it.”

According to the CCD Gen Y research, 44% add personal touches to the food they prepare by including unique toppings, add-ons and mix-ins, making Do-it-Yourself stations/dishes a huge favorite among this group.

For some, customization is all about satisfying cravings. For others, it gives a defining sense of self. Study participants say that customization lets Gen Ys “get involved in the food. It lets you have the choice of what you want to use. It’s all about you.”

CCD’s Gen Y research offers insight and information that empowers both foodservice operators and CPG manufacturers to find clever ways to satisfy the considerable appetites of the Gen Y consumer.

For more information on the Center for Culinary Development and the Gen Y research, visit www.ccdsf.com..

From the January 5, 2009, Prepared Foods e-Flash