The leading edge of Generation Alpha (generally defined as people born between 2010 and 2024) just became teenagers — and our thoughts go out to their parents! Their food and dining preferences have been forming for a decade, though, since they first learned to make their own choices (or at least tried) about what to eat. They are back to school now, for the last year of elementary school as Grade 8s. They’re on the cusp of a new life stage and will form fresh habits when they go to high school next year.
While generational labels can be a lazy (and catchy — we marketers love them) way of looking at consumer groups, generations are shaped by the unique forces that they experience. Here are a few trends and potential differences that might set Generation Alpha apart from previous generations, particularly regarding food and beverage preparation and consumption. Here goes our crystal balling!
In any generation, parental influence plays a crucial role in shaping eating habits. Fewer Generation Alphas will grow up with parents who must physically commute to a job daily. Generation Alpha's parents, likely Generation X or Millennials, may prioritize health, organic foods, and ethical sourcing, which can influence their children's dietary choices. On the other hand, some Generation Alphas are influencing their parents’ (and grandparents’) buying decisions, helping them navigate technology & current trends.
Of note, this most recent generation of parents started going old school with infant feeding, with 43% never feeding their babies infant cereal or purées. There is a movement towards baby-led feeding, where the baby is fed (breast)milk until six months old and then transitions to self-feeding small pieces of whole food from the family meal as much as possible. This makes for a much more adventurous palate at a much younger age — which is great for food producers!
Also, many Generation Alpha children are growing up in non-traditional family structures, such as single-parent households, same-sex couples, or blended families. This diversity can influence their attitudes towards family, relationships, and societal norms. Remember that when deciding how to speak to them; they may not share your values.
Citizens of the World
Generation Alpha is growing up in a highly interconnected world. With increased exposure to diverse cultures and cuisines through travel and the internet, Generation Alpha may have more adventurous tastes and be open to trying a wider variety of foods and flavours — you might say they are born with a multicultural palate! Globally inspired food and beverage will be the norm. Those kids’ menus must go beyond the usual mac and cheese or hotdogs and include pho and fajitas!
This will be the most connected generation yet, with AI baked into every tool. AI will simplify mundane tasks; so will they have more time to spend on things that allow them to self-actualize? Generation Alpha is growing up in a world where technology is deeply integrated into daily life from a very early age, allowing for more personalization and customization than ever before. They will likely be more comfortable with digital devices, which could influence how they access information about food and beverages, order food, and even prepare meals using smart kitchen appliances. Personalization or customization may be the norm for this generation.
Climate Change Awareness
Climate change is a prominent issue for Generation Alpha. They are likely to be more aware of environmental challenges and more inclined to engage in eco-friendly behaviours and advocate for sustainability. Regrettably, they will end up paying a high price for problems they didn’t create. Unlike Gen Z, who have delayed big lifestage changes, this generation may have to grow up TOO soon. And don’t be surprised if they turn out to be pessimists, with little time for institutions that haven’t fixed or made the planet better. Will they focus more on safety as the world and climate become less secure? Almost certainly, plant-based proteins will be normal, as many school menus now require a percentage of the menu to be plant-based.
There has been a growing emphasis on health and sustainability in recent years, which will likely impact Generation Alpha's food choices. They may be more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices and more inclined towards plant-based or sustainable diets. And just as we've seen "fauxstalgia" (defn: the yearning for a time in the past, even though you may never have experienced that time directly yourself) be a hot button with Gen Z, we expect it to play an even more significant role for Gen Alpha, as they yearn for a safer, more comfortable time. Can brands transport them to a simpler, more magical era?
Food Influencers and Social Media
Generation Alpha is growing up in an era in which food influencers and social media play a significant role in shaping food trends and choices. They may be more influenced by what they see on platforms like Instagram and TikTok regarding their food preferences. 55% of alphas are already on or allowed to use YouTube with parental supervision.
Some of them are already YouTube and TikTok stars. “Like Nastya” was born Anastasia Sergeyevna Radzinskaya and is a Russian-American YouTuber with the world's 5th most-viewed and 7th most-subscribed channel. All of that at just 9 years old! What were you doing at age 9?
Whole Health and Dietary Preferences
Looking far into the future, what will the predicted lifespan be for Generation Alpha? Will the rising rates of depression continue with this generation due to being hyperconnected with technology and social media and dealing with climate change worries? There may be a continued focus on health-conscious eating among Generation Alpha, emphasizing natural and organic foods and an interest in food allergies and dietary restrictions. But they will also look to F&B to bring comfort and joy to support their mental health.
Now that you have some insights into Generation Alpha, what can you do to satisfy their customization expectations? Can you develop or retrofit new products that better fit this generation for their school lunches and on-the-go snacks?
By understanding the attitudes and behaviours that drive their food choices, you can develop marketing strategies that align with their media consumption habits and future-proof your business for this “Generation Next.”