Kidulthood: the twenty-somethings using whimsical food to escape from life's problems

The 'kidult' trend is rapidly expanding within the food sector. At IFE 2017 Dr Morgaine Gaye discussed the generation using fun and whimsy to escape from the terrors of today. Elliot Gardner finds out more.


On 20th March, food futurologist at Living Source Dr Morgaine Gaye presented her 'Emerging Food Trends' seminar to a packed hall of industry experts and aficionados at The International Food & Drink Event (IFE), the largest trade show for food and drink in the UK.

Among the more controversial trends discussed was the rapidly expanding 'kidult' market.

While the halls of IFE were filled with businesses demonstrating their pioneering products, the fickle food market is constantly evolving to reflect the economic and social environment of the time, and brands marketed towards kidults appear to be taking full advantage of the lucrative movement.

Kidults: in no rush to grow up

As a result of the rising cost of living, an increasing number of young adults, aged between 21 to 30, are still living at home.

"They're in an unusual position where they actually have disposable income. They're living with their parents at a time when most generations before them were living on their own trying to survive." Says Dr Gaye, "for them they don't want to grow up, the instability of the future is frightening. So they like Disney movies, they like whimsy and fun, and that gives brands an opportunity to play and do something exciting for a generation that can afford to buy it."

Within this bracket there are two, curiously opposing paths that companies have begun to go down. Either a product needs to be fun and playful, which are usually the sweet treat products, or it has to be seen as ultra healthy, with the message being that you're being good now, so later you can afford to pig out on sweets. Both product varieties play off the social media sharing culture, hoping to catch the wave of popularity within the mid-twenties audience.

Escaping from the problems of today

"Brands that look like they're for 8 year olds, are actually marketed more towards 25 year olds." explains Dr Gaye, using the recent viral phenomenon of The Milk Train Café's matcha ice cream cones wrapped in cotton candy sold in London's Covent Garden as an example. The brightly coloured treat was fervently shared on social media last year, with the main audience being the kidult demographic.

"Brands that look like they're for 8 year olds, are actually marketed more towards 25 year olds."

The overarching theme appears to be playful, fun, fantasy themes that remove the demographic from the seriousness of the world. Another example is recent developments in the lollipop scene, which has seen revitalisation with the opportunity to market towards an adult audience.

"I've seen a lot of things happening in the lollipop space here [at IFE 2017] today, and of course lots of things that happen within the lollipop space, also happen in the alcohol space. Kidults are the lowest alcohol-consuming generation ever. We think they're drinking a lot but its mostly binge drinking. So we're seeing playful foods with alcohol put into them, like an ice-cream on a stick with rum inside - a little bit of fun but nothing too serious."

Dr Gaye does remind brands to be cautious however. This audience isn't going to be around forever, in fact she expects the market to start to dry up within five years, so brands will have to be careful of investing too heavily in the 'kidult' generation, as once disposable incomes becomes less common, it is expected this wave of whimsy will quickly evaporate.