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Aging boomers and diverse Gen Yers are finding new ways to fulfill their comfort food cravings, according to the Generational Comfort Food Culinary Trend Mapping Report co-published by the Center for Culinary Development (CCD) and Packaged Facts. The report is based in part on a national survey of over 3,700 people about their comfort food preferences, which was conducted by CCD in June 2009. The survey confirmed that consumers are passionate about their comfort foods, many of which stem from childhood favorites. In today's changing food world, however, these dishes are evolving in sync with new values and lifestyles.
"Childhood comfort food is getting a makeover according to who's eating it," says CCD CEO Kimberly Egan. "Each generation has different needs and tastes, including more healthful fare, gourmet ingredients and bolder flavors, which are reflected in their go-to comfort foods."
While the survey showed that the overall food category preferred by all ages was sweets, individual responses revealed a more nuanced generational portrait of comfort food preferences. For example, while many participants craved chicken soup, Gen Yers also turned to Vietnamese pho. Gen Xers gravitate to beloved branded foods while boomers are skewing premium but keeping an eye on health. And what are the overarching trends driving today's beloved and evolving comfort foods? Packaged Facts identified three:
Contemporary quality. All three generational cohorts are seeking higher-quality food experiences, and these are surfacing in updated versions of old favorites. Today's pies are farmers' market fresh; new leaner meats appear in meatloaf; casseroles are loaded with seasonal veggies; and mac 'n' cheese arrives with gourmet twists. Additional upgrades include fresh herbs and exotic spices, artisan cheeses, and natural and organic ingredients.
The new diversity. Although boomers have a decided taste for exotic flavors, diverse Generation Y is truly adopting global comfort dishes like Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho), sushi, and Indian and Thai curries. In addition to these new comfort meals, global flavors are enhancing comfort classics.
Balanced eating. Boomers and Gen Xers are trying to balance indulgent comfort foods with more healthful versions using fresh vegetables, sustaining whole grains and leaner meats. Gen Y grew up learning nutrition basics and now craves fresh fruit for a healthful burst and cheese in all forms for a protein and flavor boost. Opportunities abound for food marketers to create enticing, up-to-date versions of the comfort foods every generation passionately craves.
The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is co-published by the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts. Individual issues and annual subscriptions are available at www.packagedfacts.com/landing/culinarytrends.asp.