As the author of “Hungry” and “A Taste of Generation Yum,” Turow-Paul has conducted extensive research into what aspects of food and foodie culture motivate younger demographics, and believes that success for food companies relies on speaking to the experiences surrounding food that resonate positively, and understanding why millennials (86%) and Gen Z-ers (84%) report that they are “passionate” about food.
The leading observation, Turow-Paul said, is that young people’s unprecedented passion for food may be related to an unprecedented degree of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and narcissism that psychological research attaches to young people. According to her research, “Millennials and those in Generation Z that report the greatest attachment to technology report greater anxiety than the general population.”
One theory of well-being in response to unprecedented levels of stress that Turow-Paul considers relevant to the rise of foodie culture is that celebrating cuisine can lend itself to feelings of safety, predictability, organization, and a sense of control.
“We create order out of chaos through knowledge,” Turow-Paul said. “Thinking about how this relates to trends, it’s easy to understand the appeal of things like blockchain, traceability, labeling, and storytelling. People may optimize their nutrition as a means of feeling in control. This is why we see a rise in supplements, ‘biohacking,’ fitness trackers, and delivery services.”
Additionally, Turow-Paul attributed restrictive tendencies that have become trends within the food world, especially among young people, as a means of promoting a sense of order. Diet trends including non-GMO, gluten-free, whole 30, paleo, and veganism, may speak to a psychology that exists around certain diet tribes.
Turow-Paul discussed another theory on well-being to consider when trying to understand certain drivers in the food world that young people gravitate toward, and that is the role that food plays socially.
According to psychological surveys, “we are the loneliest generation on record,” said Turow-Paul, who is a millennial.
Specifically, she spoke to the number of fad diets that have surfaced and grown in popularity at rates unseen among prior generations. Additionally, she noted a phenomenon in which diet choices are beginning to mold their own communities both online and offline, and a tendency that younger generations have to seek out like-minded individuals based on their eating habits.
Both social media and the fact that millennials, on average, are more likely to move away from their families, less likely to be religious, and are less likely to know their neighbors, as potential contributing factors to this generation’s tendency to appreciate niche foodie cultures.
Purpose and Meaning
Turow-Paul also took into account philosopher Abraham Maslow’s theory on self-esteem, in that the tenets of purpose involve achievement, mastery, independence, self-respect, and personal growth. She believes that many aspects of foodie culture thrive on skill-building, both inside and outside of the kitchen.
According to her research, millennials and Gen Z-ers spend less time in nature, engaging in tangible (non-virtual activities that require creating something manually) activities. “The lack of time we spend in nature translates to what we seek out in our lifestyles,” Turow-Paul said.
The manually-intense crafts surrounding the food world may speak to the sensory, skill-building, tangible, shareable, and independent experiences that younger generations tend to lack as demographics shown to be the most attached to technology.
Further, purpose can be found in engaging with products that have prosocial benefits, such as products that are manufactured with sustainability, fair trade, waste reduction, social justice, and regenerative agriculture in mind.