Compared to adults, today's teenagers are generally more comfortable with new technology, are more brand-conscious, are less engaged with ethical issues, are very aware of healthy eating messages, and demand good quality and service � not just low price, according to new research from IGD, sponsored by Mller Dairy (UK) Ltd.
The research paper, The Teenage Diet Now and in the Future, which examined the opinions and attitudes of 13-17 year olds about food and grocery, reveals that 43% of teenagers eat out at least once a week, and that they expect good service or they will go elsewhere.
The youngsters know the strength of their consumer power and, even in fast food outlets, they want speed combined with politeness. Although price is important, it lags behind service and only equals variety.
"Having grown up in a consumer society, they are independent and empowered from an early age, and they expect more and better every year," explained IGD's chief executive, Joanne Denney-Finch.
Where teens shop
In the main, teenagers shop in convenience stores and small town-centre outlets, with nearly nine out of ten visiting such locations at least once a week.
Teens are very image conscious, knowing what is available in supermarkets, and knowing about the associated low prices. But those surveyed were reluctant to buy non-foods from supermarkets. They felt, for example, that the range of CDs offered by the supermarkets was too small and was 'aimed at their parents'.
Of all the factors involved in the modern teen's buying decisions, brands and brand image are heavily dominant. To a teen, a strong brand is one that is well-advertised, according to IGD: teens feel that advertising shows a company's commitment to its product. Conversely, they look down upon 'me too' products, saying that copy-cat products were trying to trade on the success of others.
According to the research, shopping for CDs, clothes, and cosmetics is a leisure activity for teens. They like to shop with friends, browsing and taking their time. They want to feel 'cool' and the shops they are seen frequenting should reflect that social status.
When it comes to buying food, the majority (86%) cared about food hygiene and animal welfare (82%). But comparatively few said that Britishness (38%) and organic methods (28%) are important to them. Less than half saw business ethics, fair trade, or genetic modification as an important issue.
They understood the benefits of eating healthily, and identified eating more fruit and vegetables, followed by drinking more water (65%) and eating lower fat foods as ways of achieving good health. However they were not in a hurry to eat well, instead thinking it was something to worry about when they were 25 or 30 years old. Regular meal times are not a priority, and they eat what they want, when they want, and convenience is key.
Innovate for acceptance
"Today's teenagers know their own mind and are ready to vote with their feet if they are not satisfied. They are imaginative and are keen to look for opportunities to make their life easier, including where they shop, what they buy, and the food they eat," concluded Denney-Finch. "Innovation is essential for brands to gain acceptance with today's teenagers."