Retailers and manufacturers beware: tomorrow’s food shoppers will be more demanding, more discerning and even more brand conscious than their parents are today.

That’s a key conclusion of a new report on teenagers’ attitudes to food and grocery due to be unveiled at this week’s IGD annual convention by chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch.

The research - sponsored by Müller - reveals that 43% of teenagers eat out at least once a week and expect good service, otherwise they go elsewhere.

Teenagers do shop in convenience stores and small town centre outlets, with nearly nine in 10 visiting them at least
once a week. Teens are image conscious, know what’s available in supermarkets and know about low prices. But those surveyed were reluctant to buy from supermarkets, particularly when it comes to non-food.

For example, they think the range of CDs offered by the supermarkets is too small - and, much worse, aimed at their dads - and that the store environment is not cool enough for them to be seen in with their friends.

One factor dominates their buying choices - brands and brand image.

When it comes to buying food, 86% cared about food hygiene and 82% about animal welfare. But things such as business ethics, fair trade, GM, Britishness and organics were not big issues.

The teens interviewed understood the benefits of eating healthily but were not in a hurry to eat a better diet - thinking it was something to worry about when they were 25 or 30 years old. Regular meal times were not a priority; they eat when they want at the times they want, and convenience was key.

They see cooking from scratch as the way to make sure their diet is healthy, but there is a gulf between what they cook today and what they expect to cook in the future.

Denney-Finch said: “Today’s teenagers know their own mind and are ready to vote with their feet if they are not satisfied. They are imaginative and keen to look for opportunities to make their life easier, including where they shop, what they buy and the food they eat.

“Innovation is essential for brands to gain their acceptance, but we must not forget the attention that is now focused on improving teenagers’ diets.”
Julian Hunt