For the first eight years of my life, I grew up in communist Poland. I remember the food queues, but I also remember the delicious home-made food cooked by my grandmother. Back in those days in Poland, processed food was considered a luxury and western brands were a treat which could only be bought in special government- approved shops.
When I moved to England in 1980, my whole world changed. Not only were there no food queues, but the biggest revelation was the fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell, as well as the huge variety of snacks and treats.
At that time, in the early 1980s, the links between processed foods and obesity were tenuous, but as the problem continued to grow it started to reach the public consciousness. Over time this has led to an increasingly bigger spotlight on processed food and fast food companies. Books such as ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’ by Michael Moss were published and documentaries like ‘Super-Size Me’ were released, openly criticizing food and beverage companies and the role they play in contributing to the growing global obesity crisis.
And yet with lifestyles changing, people becoming less active and processed foods featuring ever-more in our diets, we have seen almost a doubling of obesity worldwide since the 1980s. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2014, and 13% were obese; 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013.
At the same time, we are seeing the emergence of the next demographic – the ‘Millennials’. Born between 1980 and 2000, the Millennials are predicted to be the next big spenders. Today, their spending is at US$2.45 trillion, and by 2018, it is projected to reach US$3.39 trillion, surpassing the ‘Baby Boomers’.
This is a group of future consumers that companies simply cannot ignore. Millennials have different attitudes to life, and in this instance food. They put more importance on ‘wellness’ in their daily lives and are more likely to try and maintain healthy eating habits. They place priority on freshness, quality and ingredient transparency.