Gen Alpha will have increased expectations for variety and a greater propensity to try new flavor combinations."

Move over centennials. Generation Alpha is on the scene! Born starting in 2010, they are the children of millennials. While Generation Alpha makes up just 12.5% of the population today, they’ll continue to grow in numbers and impact over the coming years.

Believe it or not, the oldest millennials turned 40 in 2019 and are the largest group of parents raising the next generation. Millennials are starting their parenting journey with a deep self-understanding. They are more likely to believe parents should live for themselves as much as for their children (remember, millennials made beer taps, scooters and midday Ping-Pong standards of office life).

What does this mean for Gen Alpha? With older parents, Gen Alpha will likely experience more stable childhoods, both in terms of finances (depending on the future economy) and household dynamics. Gen Alpha parents will continue to focus on their own careers, passions and self-care, passing down to Gen Alpha valuable lessons about never losing sight of their individuality. 

Many of these parents are foodies who enjoy cooking. Therefore, they prioritize healthy food choices for their families and value teaching their kids about where food comes from, how it is prepared and how it impacts the body. Concerned about childhood obesity and healthy eating, parents are packing farm-fresh lunches for elementary school — if the school doesn’t have a garden of its own.

They’re making choices that include:

  • Decreasing red meat consumption
  • Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Increasing whole grains
  • Increasing protein
  • Decreasing sugar

Even in food deserts, we see convenience stores and gas stations reflecting these trends, offering fresh fruits and more health-conscious choices. (Did you know the average annual organic eating occasions per capita is highest among children up to age nine?)

Millennials have instilled a love of good food in this new generation of eaters and a greater sense of adventure when it comes to new tastes and unfamiliar foods. Their children have had early exposure to many ethnic flavors, fruits and vegetables. As a result, Gen Alpha will have increased expectations for variety and a greater propensity to try new flavor combinations, demanding more from every meal and menu. It’s not surprising that many restaurants have already picked up on this trend, with many kids’ menus beginning to resemble the adult menu.

Visual appeal of food is more important to this generation of kids as well. They’re growing up with Instagram and a cultural norm of posting photos of meals on social media — color, size, shape and texture are becoming increasingly important.

Instagram was founded just as Gen Alpha was first entering the world and social media serves as a key tool of connection, influence and information for parents and Gen Alpha themselves. The digital footprint of dining options will become increasingly important, from social media to apps to delivery options to reviews to online menus.

Knowing these youngsters will be adult shoppers and dining decision-makers in eight quick years, how do food brands and restaurant operators ready themselves for the new opportunities Gen Alpha brings?

  • Consider the role of individuality and keep customization top of mind when developing menu items.
  • Apply the full scope of healthy choices to menu development, running the gamut of allergen-free, diet-friendly and climate-neutral meal options.
  • Consider the digital opportunity of the menu and the item. Will it look good under the scrutiny of the camera?

Every generation brings with it new challenges and opportunities for the hospitality and foodservice industry. With Generation Alpha, industry players can carry forward many of the strategies they’re using for their millennial parents, but, as always, expect some changes in the years to come.

Christopher Wolf
Senior Vice President, Strategic Insights & Planning
Marlin Network

Christopher Wolf manages strategic planning and insights capabilities at Marlin Network, an Advantage Marketing Partners agency. He has been involved in food marketing, innovation and trend tracking for more than 25 years.

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