Millennials Carry a Diverse Range of Food Preferences

Generation Y, aka millennials, represent a key segment of today’s consumers. Born between 1981 and 1997, these 19 to 35-year-olds make up a quarter of the U.S. population. Additionally, they hold roughly $200 billion in buying power annually. 12 million millennial households in the U.S. now have children, and as more of this generation transition into parenthood, the weight of their opinions in the food industry will continue to rise.

While millennials are often broadly categorized as smartphone and social media fanatics, their contributions to various food trends vary substantially depending on the subgroup in question. For instance, young men are more likely to have tried food trends such as craft beer and beer pairings, while young women are more likely to have tried health trends like quinoa and spiralized vegetables. Further, millennials on the West and East Coasts are more likely to have tried trendy foods than people in the Midwest or the South, and Asian millennials are most likely to have tried a given food trend compared to Hispanic, White, and African Americans.

A number of food preferences stand out among this generation. They like diverse, fresh, and health and socially conscious foods; they also value taste. Their preference for a diverse range of foods can be seen in their frequent visits to fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, juxtaposed with their appreciation for “fusion cuisines,” such as naanwiches, Sushirritos, and Korean barbecue tacos. Further, millennials report that new or unique foods and flavors make them feel satisfied at restaurants, and 40 percent of them will order something different on the menu at each restaurant visit.

This generation eats fresh produce more often than older generations, and 84 percent of them report that freshness is most likely to influence their purchases of foods and beverages. 94 percent, who eat more snacks than older generations, say freshness is important when choosing a snack. 41 percent say they would pay a premium for freshness.

Additionally, Gen Y prefers brands that consider the health and social implications of their products. Specifically, 83 percent say health is important when choosing a snack. 30 percent, a higher proportion than older generations, consume foods that are certified organic. Moreover, this generation is increasingly reading food package labels and avoiding food additives. Millennials want products that are locally sourced and value animal welfare. They are drawn to ethical, authentic, and transparent brands.

Taste is also very important to this generation. In fact, 60 to 70 percent say appealing taste and flavor are the most important factors when choosing a restaurant. Similarly, they state that taste is one of the most important factors when choosing a snack.

With increasing say in the market, millennials represent an important group of consumers to the food industry. However, the range of their contributions to food trends is wide as millennials are a variable group. Regardless, a typical consumer from this group generally wants diverse, fresh, and health and socially conscious foods and highly values taste.



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