Millennial Food Trends 2

The originators of foodie culture, millennials (born between 1981 and 1995, and now aged 28 to 43) are swapping Instagrammable eats for something more comforting. This generation is turning to food and drink as a tangible form of self-care via nostalgia-driven snacks.

Our nostalgia podcast episode shared insights into the nostalgia phenomena happening right now, and that doesn’t stop at media and fashion. The food and drinks industry are being impacted in the same way, and are meeting the demands of consumers with products that take them back to a sweeter time. 

Nostalgia’s Accelerating Allure

The accumulating pressures of adult life are amplifying the comforting appeal of nostalgic foods among millennials. Products that tap into this generation’s enduring fondness for familiarity while delivering up-to-date branding, cleaner labels and convenience will strike a chord – even better if they’re designed for sharing with kids.

73% of millennials across 12 markets would pay extra to bring back some of their favourite childhood snacks. 
State of Snacking, 2022

It’s a commercial opportunity that has been leveraged by brands such as US-based Hostess Brands (known for snacks such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs) who attribute its robust growth to the millennial parents who grew up with its brands. 

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For others, like Asda, it has been an opportunity to launch new (or bring back old) products. Asda launched their popular School Cakes in 2023, tapping into the memories of British shoppers who enjoyed the cakes in their youth.

Meanwhile upscale restaurants across the US and UK are finding inspiration in timeless kids’ foods, from Purl Restaurant in Washington DC selling their own version of the 90s Rainbow Sprinkle Cake to Nessa in London selling the classic Neapolitan Ice Cream. 

Two out of five German consumers say they’re interested in flavours that remind them of their childhood
Mintel, 2022

Cleaner Classics

Better-for-you versions of nostalgic foods have mileage for a generation balancing the function and fun of what they eat. American alt-soda brand Olipop – whose research found that millennials in particular derive comfort from soft drinks like soda – is succeeding with its high-fibre, low-sugar twist on classic flavours such as ginger ale and cherry vanilla.

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Trendy cereal start-up Magic Spoon (US) promotes its high-protein snack bar Trets – inspired by Rice Krispies treats – as “just like the chewy-ooey-gooey squares you loves during recess”, which fellow American brand Bobo’s advertises its gluten-free PB&J oat snacks as “your childhood favourite reimagined.” 

Other brands include Flings (Canada), which makes a high-protein, low-sugar version of Pop-Tarts, and upcoming Oddball (US), which cleaner fruit jellies. 

For parents, US-based clean-label baby brand Little Spoon has debuted a Lunchable-like toddler line, promoted by American actress Melissa Joan Hart in an ad featuring fellow 1990s TV stars. “It’s all the nostalgia without any of the junk!” says Hart. 

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76% of consumers in the UK say they are attracted to sweets that remind them of their childhood.
Mintel, 2022

Cross-Family Delight 

Playing to parents, Hostess has introduced family packs with individually wrapped products, ideal for school lunches. Its Bouncers mini cakes are designed to be consumed in two bites, avoiding messy in-car snacking and easily slot into lunchboxes. 

Brands are also playing up cross-generational relevance. Magic Spoon positions its Treats as equally suitable for a preschool bite for children as for a post-midnight adult snack. Chubby Snacks (US), which markets sleekly branded frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, says “Use us to feed your kids or the kid in you.” They have found this particularly popular with millennials. 

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Whilst some restaurants and bars are exploring the addition of nostalgic dishes on their menu, for those targeting a millennial and family audience, there is huge potential to tap into this growing trend.

Nostalgia doesn’t need to be cliché or cheap, unhealthy food. As some of the brands above have shown the revival of snacks in a more premium and healthy versions, the same opportunity exists for hospitality.

If you want to talk about your food & beverage strategy and how your café, pub, bar or restaurant can leverage the nostalgia food trend for millennials, get in touch and our F&B Consultants can help you build a menu that brings back all the best memories. 

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