Thursday, January 26, 2023

Prioritizing Gen Z in 2023


Caution: Some of you may not like reading today’s blog…and, please keep in mind, these are generalizations backed by global industry research authorities. It’s not like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and have a negative attitude. I did my homework!

Baby Boomers, the time has come. You are irrelevant for the majority of food and beverage innovation and marketing. You will get over it, hopefully sooner than later, because once you do, there’s a world of change waiting for you, a world where you can make a difference. 

Irrelevancy is nothing to us Gen Xers. I/We were never relevant, as Baby Boomers overshadowed us and then produced families—Millenials--that exerted their “powers of participation” to make themselves as important, if not more, than their Boomer parents. Well, that’s over with. Gen Z is where the action is. Consider this payback from Gen X, as Gen Z is our offspring. 

Gen Z watched their Gen X parents survive foreclosures and bury dreams of getting that single-family, white picket fence home in “a good neighborhood with good schools.” (My family of four never left our two-bedroom starter townhouse in Chicago.) During the 2008 financial crisis, they saw us shop sales and clip coupons. “No sale, no coupon, no box of cereal,” was a repeated phrase in my home. Hello Groupon, which began the same year. Groupon was the only ticket to having date night. 

And now, it’s 2023. Gen Z is growing up, and the ONLY demographic important to most marketers. The good news is, Gen Z may be more grounded mentally, physically, socially, and every …ally than any other living generation. To put it nicely, they’ve gone to H E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS and back with the pandemic and they want change. They want a "Back to Basics" approach to eating. 

This past Wednesday (Jan. 25, 2023) afternoon, The Hatchery Chicago hosted a “Consumer Trends of 2022 and 2023 Predictions” conference. My forever professional friend, Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, shared some great insights based on her nearly 40 years of experience tracking global food and beverage trends. This Boomer knows—and embraces—that it is all about Gen Z. 

She shared some of Mintel’s leading food and drink trends. One is “Savvy Sustenance,” which is all about nutrient density, and being fueled by Gen Z who is savvy with their newly earned dollars.

“Although consumers may not readily know the term nutrient density, it is what they seek. It feels like the new way to talk about healthy,” said Dornblaser. “There’s opportunity to balance solid nutrition with a fair price.”

That’s screaming dairy!

Another is “Unguilty Pleasures.” Post pandemic, consumers are all about the freedom to indulge and to treat themselves. This is being fueled by…Gen Z, the demographic who was shipped back home while studying abroad in March 2020. The demographic who missed 8th grade, high school and university graduation ceremonies. They want their cake! They will eat dessert before dinner. 

“Often, pleasurable food and drink are marketed as being naughty, guilty or frivolous,” said Dornblaser. “This approach can be alienating for consumers—even those who adhere to healthy diets—who need some well-earned, guilt-free respites.”

She said that food innovators should focus on flavor and experience. It’s all about “small treats” or easily portioned products to allow consumers a well-considered treat.

That’s screaming dairy!

Need more Gen Z marketing direction? 
Here are insights from Cheyenne Hunt, J.D., (infographic source above) an advocate and attorney specializing in progressive activism, legislative advocacy, communications and democracy-focused tech policy.

She explained that Gen Z, the “iGen” demographic cohort born between 1997 and 2012, is the first to grow up fully immersed in technology. The belief systems and behaviors of Gen Z are a driving force not only in shaping culture, but economies at the global level. It’s imperative to understand commonalities in order to discern opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. 
She said that many Gen Zers prioritize their career and financial goals over immediate gratification in their personal lives. They are more materialistic and motivated to succeed than previous generations, with an overall goal achieving financial security and an upper middle-class lifestyle that now is seemingly out of reach for many as wages remain stagnant over time. 

Gen Z values a slower pace of life and is more focused on living in the present moment. Research shows that two-thirds of Gen Z is moderately to extremely worried about their physical and mental health, making health a high priority for this generation. They also distinguish between “quiet quitting,” which many in the generation believe is simply giving only as much into their job as their job compensates them for vs. “slow living,” which involves setting healthy boundaries between work and personal life.

Gen Z is known for their budgeting skills and understanding of credit. After watching their parents face the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, they tend to be more financially savvy and responsible than previous generations. 

Call me crazy, but I think Gen Z wants to embrace dairy products. They want a "back-to-the-basics" approach to life. Make sure they remain relevant to this young cohort. Repeat after this Gen Xer: no one else matters, only Gen Z.   

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Commit to Innovating with Probiotics and Protein in 2023


Happy New Year! It’s been a few weeks since I blogged, as the year kicked off with a trip to Tampa to watch the Illini (my alma mater) play (and lose) in a Bowl game. That was quickly followed with going to Orange County to speak at the inaugural “Coffee, Tea and Creamers: The Art and Science of Milk in Beverages” short course at Chapman University. This was one of a number of programs from the Dairy Business Innovation Initiative Pacific Coast Coalition funded by USDA-AMS, in collaboration with the California Dairy Innovation Center. And then there was the Winter Fancy Food Show this week in Las Vegas. 

The two industry events confirmed that startups and entrepreneurs are embracing dairy to make everything from milk tea boba to high-protein snacking cheesecakes to culinary-inspired butters. Link HERE to my Food Business News dairy-focused overview and slide show from the Winter Fancy Food Show. (The Bowl trip reminded me I am getting too old to day drink at an outdoor sports event.)  

Let’s kick start this year with what I believe will be the two most important attributes to market in dairy foods this coming year. They are probiotics and protein. 

Here’s some great news. After nearly three years of shifting priorities, the dairy industry is starting to prioritize new product development and innovation again, according to Cypress Research, Kansas City, Mo. Probiotics and protein are the two most important ingredient trends for those who participated in this confidential survey of U.S. dairy processors on behalf of Dairy Processing

I will assist with discussing findings from this survey during a free webinar on Feb. 8, 2023. Link HERE to register. 

Interest in these two ingredient categories should not be surprising, as almost all of the food and beverage trend reports and forecasts for 2023 rank gut health/immunity as a consumer priority, with protein maintaining a prominent force in health and wellness programs. One of the most reputable authorities on food and consumer trends is the International Food Information Council (IFIC), which has stated that 2023 will be a year all about healthful beverages and demands for probiotics and protein, among other trends. 

Let’s jump straight to the gut. IFIC explains that probiotics have been steadily growing in popularity, with digestive/gut health being the third most commonly sought-after benefit among Americans. Don’t expect that interest to wane in the coming year, and expect to see them more and more beyond the yogurt section, as probiotics are increasingly being added to non-traditional foods, like chocolate, ice cream, juices, sauces and even nutrition bars. 

Beverages, specifically, are viewed as an ideal delivery system for probiotics. According to IFIC’s 2022 Consumer Insights on Gut Health and Probiotics Survey, of those who try to consume probiotics, 25% say they commonly seek them out in wellness drinks. 

IFIC’s conversation on protein is that plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy are old hat, but plant-based pasta, rice and snacks will be a growing trend in 2023. These products point a new lens on sustainability and innovation, often relying on “upcycling,” which takes plant-based food components that ordinarily would have gone to waste and processes them for use in other products. Upcycling reduces food waste and contributes to sustainable food production. 

It is true. Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with innovative, plant-based food alternatives, a trend that should continue in 2023. But the majority still love meat and dairy. It is paramount that the dairy industry “change the narrative about the power of dairy protein.” Link HERE to read a recent piece I wrote on this topic for Food Business News

Want to learn more about formulating with dairy proteins? Link HERE to register for the American Dairy Products Institute's "Dairy Ingredients 360 Dairy Course" starting Feb. 9, 2023. 

And here’s another good read. Link HERE to read “Consumer interest driving gut health innovation.” 

Please commit to innovating with probiotics and dairy proteins in 2023. Happy New Year!