Alpha Bites: Diving into Gen Alpha’s Food and Flavor Adventures

by | Apr 11, 2024

Sometimes called “mini-Millennials” or “iPad kids,” Gen Alpha is in the spotlight as food and beverage innovators look for clues about how to appeal to this up-and-coming generation of foodies.

While they may be young, Gen Alphas have a growing influence on household spending and affect food and beverage purchase decisions. Let’s explore some key generational trends to discover how brands can engage and create connections with children through food and beverage innovations.

Gen Alpha Fast Facts

Born between 2010 and 2025, Gen Alpha is the first generation entirely born in the 21st century. Gen Zers still hold the title of the first true digital natives, but Gen Alpha will grow up with even more access to the internet and technology. Financial experts estimate annual spending for children in the U.S. is $24 billion. The top spending categories are gaming, retail, fashion, and food (Currency Marketing).

Standout Statistics

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There will be around 2.2 billion members of Gen Alpha worldwide by the end of 2024 (Razorfish).
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Generation Alpha is the most diverse generation in U.S. history (Hotwire Global).
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Half of Gen Alphas are expected to earn a university degree (McCrindle).
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65% of Gen Alphas will work in jobs that don’t exist today (McCrindle).

Food and Beverage Innovation Trends for Gen Alpha

Innovation for foods and beverages targeting children (between 5 and 12 years old) declined by 27% in 2023. That’s a significant difference compared to all food and drink, where the number of new launches in North America increased about 2.4%.

KEY INNOVATION CATEGORIES

Ten categories accounted for about two-thirds of new product activity in 2023. Ready-to-eat cereal is a top contributor to that innovation, following vitamins, minerals, and supplements (VMS) targeting children. VMS, RTE cereal, snack bar, cookie, and fruit-flavored drink brands developed more products for children in 2023 than they did in 2022. Other categories pulled back, meaning RTE cereal and the other segments represented a larger share of innovation.

% of New Product Development for Children 5-12 Years Old

North America (Mintel)

Category 2022 2023
Vitamins, Minerals, & Supplements 18% 24%
RTE Cereal 10% 14%
Snack/Energy Bars 5% 7%
Fruit Snacks 4% 4%
Cookies 4% 5%
Sugar Confections 11% 4%
Drinking Yogurt 4% 1%
Cough, Cold, & Flu Relief 2% 3%
Lollipops 2% 1%
Fruit/Flavored Still Drinks 1%

3%

FLAVOR ADVENTURERS

Households with children are more likely to be flavor adventurers. Over half (53%) look for flavors they have never tried before, compared to 41% of families without children (Innova). Other flavors attracting interest are better-for-you flavors and ones offering a mood boost.

Flavor Aspects Influencing Parental Choices for Children

(Innova Flavor Survey)

Flavor Aspect Households with Children

% Agreeing

Households without Children

% Agreeing

Better for You/Healthy 50% 42%
Mood Boost 27% 21%
New 28% 24%
Sensory 25% 22%
Exotic Combos 23% 21%

CULTURAL CUISINE

Adventurous parents are more likely to encourage their children to try new flavors. Don’t forget Millennials (Gen Alpha’s parents) are the generation that embraced avocado toast, quinoa, kombucha, and matcha. Culturally diverse foods and flavors like orange chicken, pho, fajitas, and buttered pasta are a natural fit for parents who want their children to taste dishes from around the world. Datassential reported a move toward globally inspired options on kids’ menus including lemon pepper, sriracha, and honey BBQ.

How To Build Connections With Gen Alpha

APPEAL TO PARENTS AND CHILDREN

Parents shopping for children have a unique set of challenges. Not only do they have to find products with the right nutritional benefits, but they also have to find what their children will actually eat. A Datassential study found that 77% of Gen Alpha parents purchase foods both kids and adults will eat.

The same study also asked parents about their priorities when choosing foods for their children. The top three concerns are within a few percentage points of each other.

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Eating a balanced diet: 49%
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Controlling health issues: 45%
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Building a taste for healthier foods: 45%

About one-third of parents are concerned about limiting artificial sweeteners and sugar.

Gen Alpha may develop a more diverse palate after watching Millennial parents and Gen Z siblings explore adventurous flavors and formats. For example, new and returning flavors in 2023 RTE cereal for children included red berry, cake confetti, pandan, strawberry and macaron, and blue razz and cherry.

ONLINE AND IN-STORE REACH

How many Gen Alphas are online? More than half (55%) are on YouTube with parental supervision, 32% are on TikTok, and 56% have their own phones (Datassential). Alphas are growing up in a world where an internet connection is a given, and smart devices feel like they’ve always been there. Technology can lead to an overload of information and shorter attention spans. Brands who want to reach their audience online must cut through the digital noise and engage children’s attention.

The online world isn’t the only place to reach Gen Alpha. Children are also influenced by what they see in the store and learn from family and friends. Going with parents to the grocery store is an opportunity for children to peruse other brands and make requests about what goes in the cart. Colorful characters and tie-ins to popular games or online influencers can help boost the appeal of your brand on the shelf.

PRIORITIZE BRAND AUTHENTICITY

Gen Alphas are poised to be brand loyalists. FlavorSum’s research into several larger food and beverage categories found that households with children are likelier to stick to their favorite brands. They’re more comfortable trying new flavors from a well-liked brand. Ice cream is the exception, where new flavors have a similar level of appeal regardless of brand loyalty. About 80% of Gen Alpha parents said their children often or sometimes request a specific snack or food brand (Food & Beverage Insider). Parents and children need to trust the brand before exploring beyond familiar favorites.

Brand loyalty is about much more than just the product itself. 66% of Gen Alphas prefer to buy from companies that make a positive difference in the world, and 18% say they want to buy products made from sustainable materials (Wunderman Thompson). Brands should examine their mission, values, and the ways they can demonstrate value.

Need Help With Your Next Gen Alpha Food or Beverage Innovation?

Although Gen Alphas are still young, the food and beverage industry already feels their influence. Whether you want to develop a tried-and-true flavor or a new adventurous combination, the FlavorSum team can support your innovation journey with expertise to deliver delicious tastes across beverages, dairy, bakery, and sugar confections. Send us a message, and we’ll connect to discuss your innovation plans.

Author

Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson, Director of Marketing at FlavorSum, brings more than 30 years of market and consumer research experience to support innovation activities for food and beverage organizations.

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