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Young people and rice: tastes and trends of the future

poke bowl

Rice is finding a prime spot in the diet of young people.

We know that the consumption of rice is expanding in much of the world.

This food is a diet staple in many cultures for a variety of reasons involving both its organoleptic characteristics and its production.

Relatively cheap to produce, it has spread throughout the world since ancient times due to its adaptability to many types of climates and soils. On top of this, it’s a very versatile ingredient in cooking and goes well with many types of dishes. It also has a good amount of nutrients, such as carbohydrates and protein, as well as a long shelf life.

Furthermore, young people’s love of rice also stems from the search for healthy dishes, not to mention, trends.

Young people's nutrition: What the data says about rice

Companies have embraced the appreciation of rice by the younger generations, especially those between the ages of 25 and 34. Understanding trends in rice consumption is a crucial opportunity to guide future policies. This is why the National Rice Board, joined by the Isola della Scala Fair Authority and the Consortium for the Protection of PGI Riso Nano Vialone Veronese, conducted a research study, which was presented at the General Assembly of the Rice Consumption in June 2023.

This research revealed that rice is a popular dish among Italians, so much so that 60% consume it at least once a week. Moreover, among young people, the percentage rises to 69%.

While traditional risotto and rice salad remain staples, new trends such as oriental dishes, rice casseroles, rice desserts, and all-in-one dishes like paella are emerging.

Among the new trends, sushi is one of the top choices, particularly popular with the 18-34 age group. In this category of consumers, we see a marked appreciation for new and exotic flavors and ready-to-eat formats. Equally relevant is the emergence of poke bowls among young people, indicating an interest in even more varied and nutritious choices.

The search for new recipes using rice in innovative ways not only meets a need for variety, but also aligns with the expectations of a young audience that carefully evaluates its food choices in terms of health and wellness.

This is often precisely what is asked of producers. Rather than a reduction in prices or cooking times, as one may think, there is a growing demand for original recipes and new rice varieties.

Youth nutrition: Why young people like rice

For some time, rice was considered a somewhat old-fashioned food, typically associated more with older generations than with young, fashionable eating habits.

In recent years, there has been a revival in the popularity of rice among young people, especially as rice dishes that were previously little known have entered our culture. This cereal, therefore, has repositioned itself as a versatile and healthy ingredient suitable for modern, health-conscious recipes, which is very important, particularly for the younger generations.

Especially with the introduction of dishes such as sushi, poke bowls, and other rice-based foods into our diets, which are appealing to a young audience seeking both health benefits and convenience.

The change in perception is also influenced by the rise of plant-based diets and sustainable food practices, where rice is often valued for being grown in an environmentally friendly way compared to other carbohydrate sources.

Although young people are frequently accused of not having a healthy relationship with food and indulging in junk food, it’s also true that a good percentage of new adults choose healthier foods. The appreciation for these exotic dishes is a very useful drive for improving youth food culture.

Market response and the role of packaging

Young people’s growing interest in rice is prompting the market to rethink the products offered as well as the way they are presented. According to data emerging from the Rice Consumption Observatory, companies are being called upon to innovate, especially in terms of packaging, to appeal to this consumer segment that is particularly attentive to environmental impact and product convenience.

Packaging is essential not only to preserve the rice but also as a means to communicate directly with consumers. Young people, in particular, seek packaging that reflects the values of sustainability and transparency, opting for recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable packaging. Clear information about product origin and certifications attesting to sustainable practices are very important to this audience.

In response to these expectations, many companies are introducing innovations such as transparent pouches that allow the product to be seen before purchase, freshness seals that ensure the integrity of the rice, and detailed labels that provide nutritional information and packaging recycling tips. These changes respond to demands for transparency and sustainability, and create new opportunities for more engaging and personalized consumer experiences.

The opportunities opening up for the rice market revolve around the ability to balance these demands with the need to keep costs down, ensuring that rice remains an affordable product for all consumers. Thus, innovation in packaging is seen not only as a response to a trend, but as an essential component of a broader market strategy that aims to strengthen the link between young consumers and rice as a staple food in their diet.