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GenSights - Making Boomer Magic

Sharing generational insights to help businesses make magic with Baby Boomers

Some Like It Hot: Especially Boomers

hot potBack in the early 70’s, I once ordered a shrimp curry dish at a local Burmese restaurant. “Mild, medium, or spicy?” the waiter asked. “Spicy,” I replied. The second I tasted the first forkful, it was like being hit with pepper spray. My eyes teared up, my tongue and throat burned, and no amount of water, milk, or bread could cool things down. That memory came back to me the other day as I tucked into an order of beef with long-horn peppers at my favorite Boston Chinatown dive, the Gourmet Dumpling House. “I’ve come a long way,” I thought.

Then again, maybe not. According to the National Institute of Health, we start out life with approximately 9,000 taste buds. These start to decrease beginning at about age 40 to 50 in women and at 50 to 60 in men. Phil Lempert, the food market analyst who tracks consumer trends in supermarkets and restaurants and runs SupermarketGuru.com, confirms: "There's no question that as the baby boomers are aging, they're losing their taste buds, and as a result, they're drawn not only to more spicy foods, but to more flavorful foods of all kinds." Does that mean my love affair with chili peppers is due solely to diminished taste buds?

A look at the taste combinations showcased on this year’s Top 10 Flavor Pairings in the annual McCormick® Flavor Forecast™ offered another perspective.chop and season
1. Roasted ginger & rhubarb
2. Thai basil & watermelon
3. Caraway & bitter greens
4. Bay leaves & preserved lemon
5. Almond & ale
6. Turmeric & vine-ripened tomatoes
7. Pumpkin pie spice & coconut milk
8. Roasted cumin & chickpeas
9. Creole mustard & shellfish
10. Chives & fish sauce

Odd as some of those combinations may seem at first, I think the people at McCormick are on to something. I see these flavor pairings as replicating the tastes of some of my favorite ethnic foods – the cumin and chickpeas of North African tagines, Southeast Asian turmeric and vine-ripened tomato curries, Cajun-inspired Creole mustard and shellfish.

We Boomers were the first generation to have the opportunity to roam the globe, either in reality or through the pages of glossy food and travel magazines. In the process, a cohort raised on Wonder bread became enamored with pitas, tortillas, and naan – not to mention salsas and sauces loaded with flavor, intensity, and heat. And while I remember my parents and grandparents preferring blander foods as they aged, I don’t see Boomers going back. In fact, as Boomers continue to travel and indulge their sense of adventure by exploring new cuisines, we at Gen-Sights predict that their interest in bold, exotic flavors will only increase, no matter what happens to their taste buds. And because Boomers have big spending power, that means new opportunities for those in the food and restaurant industries. For instance, adding spices and other flavorings could be a way of reducing salt or sugar in packaged foods. Supermarkets could boost sales of prepared foods by serving up bolder flavors. Assisted living centers and nursing homes can differentiate themselves by appealing to Boomer palates accustomed to the bigger tastes of ethnic food—or at the very least, making sure there’s a big bottle of hot, hot, hot sauce on every table.

by Lynn Schweikart

-posted by Laura Willis

Labels: Baby Boomers & Aging, Boomer tastes, Baby Boomer Spending, Baby Boomers and Spicy Food, Food for Boomers