The make up of the American household today is quite different than it was just thirty years ago. In one generation, we have gone from the nuclear family with it’s one mom, one dad and two kids all of the same race to a country of single parent and multi-cultural rentals. The American dream of owning your own home in the suburbs has fallen to the wayside with the recession of 2008 and a millennial generation that’s more concerned with their phone plan than their life plan.
We currently have more single households in the United States than ever in history with a whopping 34% of children’s today living with an unmarried parent, this is up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. This combined with a fast growing Hispanic population and increasing bi-cultural households has made for quite the change over the last thirty years. Hispanics made up a minuscule 6.5% of total US households in 1980 and now make up almost 18%.
Not only are we seeing a dramatic change in the overall make up of the household, but the US household is now a multicultural melting pot of Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Russian and anything and anyone. Gone are the days of the traditional one man, one woman same race household, today we see no boundaries and no barriers to what makes up an American home. Even American popular culture has figured it out with shows like The Foster’s which features a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological teenaged kids being raised by two moms that recently completed it’s fourth season on FreeForm.
I know this is a lot of data to take in, but it says one clear thing to me, the times they are a changin and so are our palettes. Today’s kitchen is dramatically different than it was fifty, twenty, even ten years ago and will continue to evolve as cultures mash up and consumers bring their cultures and culinary heritages together in the kitchen.
With this changing dynamic of the American household comes a revolution in the kitchen. With the meshing of these different ethnic backgrounds comes a fusion of authentic flavor profiles and mixed cooking styles. The millennial generation has not only brought an openness and multicultural influence to the kitchen, but also an appreciation of authenticity and a palette for exploration of new spices, flavor combination and cooking techniques. The increasing pace of life and access to data through technology has also created a need for new portable formats and requirement of healthy functionality that can be consumed anywhere and anytime. Day part barriers have been demolished and three squares a day now only refers to the number of bars you have left on your battery life.
As this generation continues to grow older and establish families, they will also be merging their culinary styles that they grew up with. As acculturation takes hold and this generation becomes Americanized, they will refuse to lose sight of their roots, but blend it into their lifestyles and culinary creations. They are striving for authentic recipes, flavors, and dishes but are also willing to merge with their counterparts and create an entirely new platform of cooking and flavor. Hispanic-Asian, Korean-Mexican, Cuban-Vietnamese, Peruvian-Japanese, Italian Indian. Each of these cooking styles offering its own spectrum of flavor and spice, but being merged with one another to create a fantastic fusion of flavor and form.
As the millennial generation will continue to lead this quest for fantastical fusion flavors the sky is the limit. I see many combinations coming to fruition in the near future, but here is where I see the next wave of flavor heading.
1) Latino-Indian – as Americans we continue to be scared of curry and Indian spices, but the palette is starting to open and the Mexican platform seems to be a good way for these two formats to merge. They share similar handheld formats and spices like cumin and cilantro that seem to make an easier connection. Samosas have a strange resemblance to an empanada, so I could expect to see a yellow curry and potato empanada or a green chili and chicken samosa in the Trader Joe’ frozen aisle in the near future.
2) Mexican merging with Vietnamese cuisine – both formats have similar hand held varieties that seem to work well together. Tortas and bánh mi will fuse together as these two formats continue to make headway with consumers. You may see a carne asada bánh mi on a food truck near you soon.
3) Japanese Italian – this format is been running through the streets of Brazil for many years, but this will finally start to take hold in the near future as Japanese street food and Italian profiles become mainstream. Think about how delicious a pizza filled steamed bun would taste. It’s the upscale Hipster hot pocket.