Food Purveyors: Ignore Baby-Boomers at Your Peril

By Ruth Kava — Oct 31, 2016
Age plays a role in how people view food and make food choices, as depicted by a recent survey. In particular, baby boomers and millennials differ as to (1) whom they most trust to advise them about foods, and (2) what health aspects of food they're most concerned about.
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Marketers have latched onto the Millennial generation (those aged 18-34) as though they were the source of all goodness. Well, we'd like to advise that the Baby Boomers (aged 52-70) are still around, are as numerous as Millennials, and have pockets too. Of course, there are differences in the choices members of these demographic cohorts make, and what characteristics, especially related to food, are important to them — as described by a recent online survey of about 1000 Americans between 18 and 80 years old by the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

As one might expect, the Boomers are more likely to be interested in certain possible health benefits associated with food choices, such as cardiovascular health and weight control, while the younger set associated food and nutrition with mental health, muscle health, and immunity. Boomers are more likely (31 percent agreed) to accept that low-calorie sweetener can help with weight control than are Millennials (only 14 percent).

Other differences in food-related attitudes include that Millenials are more likely than Boomers to trust information on what foods to eat from fitness professionals (27 vs. 16 percent), and bloggers (18 vs. 8 percent). Boomers, on the other hand, trust more traditional sources such as registered dietitians (75 vs. 65 percent) and their health care professionals (73 vs. 58 percent) to help with food information.

Attitudes towards particular ingredients also differed between the generations. For example, Boomers were more likely than Millennials to ascribe health benefits to whole grains (80 vs. 70 percent), plant protein (75 vs. 63 percent) and omega-3 fatty acids (71 vs. 59 percent). Also, 37 percent of Boomers said that added sugars are less healthful than they used to think they were; while fewer Millennials (29 percent) reported believing that.

In general, though, only 8 percent of Boomers said they had read a book examining the food system or beliefs about food — less than other generations. Also, as one might expect, they were less likely to post on social media about foods or their food choices than were younger generations. But they were more likely to spend more than 15 minutes eating dinner (could those two characteristics be related?).

As a consequence of the aging process, different aspects of food and nutrition are obviously important to these generations, and what people see in the media or online differentially affects them.