Food: The Medium of Millennials


Eve Turow’s book A Taste of Generation YUM focuses on how the Millennial Generation’s obsession with food has the potential to largely impact the future of food. Eve spent three and a half years interviewing peers and celebrity chefs to gather insight about why Millennials are food obsessed and what large-scale changes may arise from this obsession.

Packaged food brands should pay attention to this rising obsession and it’s effect on long term trends in consumer interest and purchasing. Her research suggests that Millennials find assurance and comfort in food’s tangibility because it allows them to exert control over a sector of their lives. She says, “There are so many things that food offers that we don’t receive in our day-to-day anymore. Food offers sensory stimulation and community. There’s something so fundamental about eating, that in a world of clicks, buzzes and dings, the simplicity and tangibility of it significantly resonates with us as a generation.” She goes deeper by saying, “What you eat is a decision you have – control you can exert – three times a day.” Food has become the medium for Millenials to maintain personal space in a technologically driven environment where they may feel their decisions are entirely reactionary to constant information and updates.

Food allows this generation to experience and engage in fundamental human intrinsic needs. Turow describes food as “the anti-technology.” Our generation is driven and linked by technology, which can’t offer us the full stimulation or community that we need.

What are the implications to this obsession with food?

Food policy is gaining more traction as “foodies” gain more attention. As long as food policy keeps appealing to the obsession of the Millennial personality who values clean eating, being a “locavore”, (eating locally sourced food), social value of what they’re consuming, and transparent food labeling, the landscape of food policy will dramatically evolve and people will start caring about where their food comes from. Food now represents values, education and economics. You have the money/time/knowledge to care about whatever you just posted and ate.

In Turow’s interview with famous chef Anthony Bourdain, they discuss the new position this generation has toward dining, and how the focus has turned to seeing each bite as a photo-op to blast into cyber space. Bourdain doesn’t show favor toward capturing every bite, however he says “At the end of the day, the fact that people are bothering to take pictures of your food is good, not just for you as a chef or as a business person, but probably on balance, good for the world.” 

“We use what we eat as a statement of who we are.”

Social media is the medium of expression for the real issue at hand – That the Millennial generation is using this to fight to gain back some control in their lives that is otherwise stolen from them in this high tech-centric culture where personal identity can be more easily lost. She simplifies the impact of social media into two distinct categories: Enabling the individual to “gloat about ourselves very readily.” It also serves as a medium to “brand ourselves.” “As food gains secondary and tertiary labels — organic, grass-fed, local — we use what we eat as a statement of who we are. Posting that you just made vegan ratatouille with local, farmers’ market vegetables says something about you; so does your tweet about your amazing meal at Blue Hill.”

The way food is talked about is being revolutionized by the “Yummers” generation—a term that Turow coins to describe the restaurant obsessed group who take pictures of every meal. The future of the way food is talked about in the political sphere largely hinges on the way that this generation handles and takes their social musings to the next step. “Without a doubt, we as a generation will have more people educated in food studies,” said Turow.  “If we can make food policy hip the way that pork belly is hip, then it has a chance of gaining steam.” If progress can actually come by way of a “like”, “retweet”, or “+1”, then much of the triteness of this tech-saturated generation may finally be validated, and everyone will benefit in the long run.

The “Yummers” generation shifts the way food is viewed, since it offers a tangible comfort and fills a real longing in individuals to feel connected in a disconnected culture. Social media has enabled each individual to place their unique stamp on how they’re experiencing the world around them, namely in an area of their life that they can maintain control over in this tech-driven world. And if this trend in caring about food continues, food policy will drastically change as we see food as mode to understand how peoples values and how they utilize their money, education, and time. These changes create a greater opportunity for packaged food brands.

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