Teenagers have a major influence on the choices their parents make at the grocery store and in the kitchen, according to Consumer Insight: Purchase Power Of Today’s Teens, a 2019 report from FONA International. The preferences and eating behaviors of teens drive 30% of the weekly grocery bill, said parents in a Farm Rich survey of 2,000 families with teenagers.

Although teens rely largely on their parents for food purchases, 24% of the money teens do have goes toward buying food, according to a 2018 Piper Jaffray survey of 8,600 U.S. teens. “Though young, this group is signaling some clear opinions and passions for the future. The food and beverage industry would be wise to take note,” states the FONA report.

Trends showing up among teens include a focus on diversity and sustainability, adventurous palates, love of culinary self-expression, and a desire for functional food.

Diversity and sustainability

Today’s teens are the most racially and culturally diverse generation. Their interest in diversity goes further to include people of different shapes, sizes, and abilities. “Often, they view different as not only better, but essential, and that’s also reflected in their food and beverage choices,” states the FONA report.

Teens also have more interest than Millennials in issues around food waste, packaging, fair trade, food production, plant-based beef alternatives, sustainability, and human labor. This interest leads FONA to conclude food companies who want to get noticed by teens as they grow into adults need to emphasize transparency and an authentic commitment to similar values.

Adventurous palates

Diversity extends into a preference for new or unconventional flavor pairings. Teens are open to unique tastes and daring flavors, giving companies the opportunity to offer innovative, adventurous fusion and hybrid flavors. The FONA report notes an opportunity for the food and beverage industry is to offer limited edition flavors that create an experience and showcase individuality.

Culinary self-expression

Teens view food and cooking as a form of self-expression and are comfortable preparing meals, learning from their parents and television or online cooking shows. Inclined toward creativity, teens like to experiment in the kitchen, according to FONA. They mix and match ingredients to find what they like. Their most preferred meal plans are low-carb (38%), low-fat (35%), and vegetarian (32%), according to the Farm Rich survey.

Desire for functional food

Although taste is the top priority for teens, they also seek functionality, especially in snacks, FONA finds. “With limited income, they need what they eat to fill them up until the next meal. Snacks and beverages that offer athletic stamina, focus, or mental clarity alleviate the pressures of being in a highly competitive, academic environment.” Teens snack between meals two to three times a day, according to the Farm Rich survey.

Reaching teens

Teens are online even more that Millennials. In 2018 Instagram was the top social platform for teens, slighting edging out Snapchat, while Facebook use continued to decline, according to the Piper Jaffray survey. “Gathering information, and sifting through it to find sources and products they trust is second nature to them,” states the FONA report. Food companies who want to attract teens now and as they age need to provide trustworthy information in places where this age group will find it.