We’ve all heard that the emerging demographic of millennial consumers hold an increasing sway in today’s economy. Yet, what are the implications of this on the fast-changing F&B market?
JESSICA LAI identifies some millennial-driven trends to look out for.
Coming into their own after Generation X, the Millennials refer to the demographic born from the early 1980s to 2000s, noted for being outspoken, tech-savvy and open to change.
As this generation has come to comprise a majority of the current workforce, their spending power has increased too, and food and beverage players are very much enthusiastic about catering to the lifestyles and dining preferences of this crowd.
Here today and gone tomorrow, pop-up stores – temporary stores at designated venues – perhaps reflect the stereotypical Millennial characteristic of being averse to long term commitments. This is a great way for entrepreneurs and start-ups to test the market and dip their toes in the fast-moving F&B industry, while simultaneously creating an intense burst of buzz for their brand.
With consumers more inclined to go out of the way to seek interesting and novel food concepts, cult brands like the In-N-Out Burger from California have received much success when they do pop-ups in Singapore, despite their short stay. Food trucks like The Travelling Cow and restaurants like the Gastrogig have also garnered a significant following with the younger crowd using the pop-up approach.
As for the homegrown food scene, this trend also allows food producers of a smaller scale to gain exposure. Online grocer Crateful has launched a pop-up marketplace, housing brands that range from ceramic wares to healthy bites, while changing its repertoire frequently.
After years of stuffing ourselves on fast food (and the resultant backlash with behind-the-scenes exposés), younger consumers are inclined to be well educated and more health-conscious. This has led then to a rise in healthy meal options, be it salad bars such as Salad Stop! or even establishments like Afterglow and Real Food that champion raw or whole foods in a trendy way.
Millennials have especially taken eating healthy to new levels and platforms, with lifestyle trends like ‘clean eating’ – diets that consist of minimally processed or unprocessed whole foods – garnering quite the social media following. Moreover, with increased media coverage on social issues and the ethics of food production, Millennials also show a growing preference for organic and sustainably sourced food.
Organic food is produced without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides or any other artificial substances. According to local supermarket retailer NTUC Fairprice, the demand for organic greens has increased approximately by 25% year on year since 2008 despite their often-heftier price tag.
In fact, the very suggestion of ‘natural’ seems to be a plus point in the eyes of consumers. According to Innova Market Insights, ‘Clean’ label products have also greatly increased, whereby food is marketed through claims of fresh/minimal ingredients, packaging transparency, and even nature-based themes.
The Millennials are a well-travelled bunch. According to the WYSE Travel Confederation Millennial Traveller report, young travellers now represent approximately 20% of international tourism. With greater exposure to international cuisine, their palates have also evolved to become more adventurous and accepting of diverse tastes.
In an effort to keep up with the ever-evolving tastebuds of the well-travelled, many overseas food players have set up shop on our little red dot in recent years. Be it bakeries such as Paris Baguette from Korea or Paul Boulangerie from France, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian restaurant or Bali beach club-inspired Potato Head Folk, these imported F&B names have created waves in the local food scene, especially with the younger crowd.
Eschewing big corporations (take that, capitalism), Millennials are also more likely to champion the underdog and pay more attention to hand-crafted quality by smaller F&B players, leading them to identify ideologically with international ‘hipster’ food movements that include small-batch jams, handcrafted beers or artisanal cheese. Locally, the springing up of farmers’ markets like PasarBella reflect this trend, offering international organic produce, gourmet ingredients and home-baked goods inspired by the likes of London’s Borough market and Melbourne’s Queen Victoria market.
Given the fast-paced lifestyle of most Millennials, it might be surprising that there remains a strong emphasis on having a complete gastronomic ‘experience’ when it comes to dining. While most consumers appreciate a unique and memorable dining experience, this rings even truer for Millennials, who, besides food and drink, place a high premium on aesthetics, décor and general ambience. Innovative F&B restaurant concepts like dining in the dark
(NOX-Dine in the Dark) to elevate awareness of the senses have not only given eating out a fresh new spin, but also highlights a rising trend of paying attention to the more subtle nuances of gastronomy.
Other than food and concept, service and greater personalisation also matter, with the rise of trends within the past year such as bespoke cocktails, where the bartender is also an artist who contributes to the entire experience.
Says Colin Chen, Creative Director of The Refinery, an all-in-one leather workshop, yakitori bar and bespoke cocktail bar: “The Refinery takes an adaptive approach in making things more personalised and customised for each individual millennial, extending this approach throughout be it food, drinks or even crafted products.”
This very ability to customise their dining experience is in fact instrumental to Millennials who view themselves as unique, and who see food as more than just something to satisfy their stomachs – but a means of community, entertainment, and even identity.
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