5 important things to know about Young Millennials’ dining habits

November 14, 2014
7 min read

Mintel’s Amanda Topper and Katrina Fajardo provided an in-depth look at how Young Millennials (those aged 18-24) are not only shaping who they want to be, but also forming eating habits they will adopt for the rest of their lives.

Each of the following themes has an impact on the way Young Millennials make their food purchase decisions, both at home, and away from home.

Foodservice: Regardless of age, everyone wants some bang for their buck when dining out. What sets Young Millennials apart from mature consumers is their willingness to spend a little more for a quality dining experience. You see this behavior at Starbucks where this age group is willing to make a $5 cup of coffee part of their daily routine. Young Millennials are value-seekers, and while they are among the top users of quick service restaurants and convenience store foodservice, they’ve noted that they’d still like to see more affordable options on menus.

Food and Drink: Young Millennials also prioritize low prices when shopping for food at retail. They’re more likely than older generations to indicate the importance of a low price when buying food across several categories, and buy food at retail to save money when dining out. Young Millennials have generally positive perceptions of private label or store brand food and beverage, but they also appreciate high quality and are willing to pay more for it.

Foodservice: Young Millennials are seeking convenience during the morning rush, as well as during snacking occasions. Essentially, the more portable the food items are, they more likely they are to order it during breakfast or as a snack. Additionally, snacking opportunities for Young Millennials in college will need to fit into their hectic schedule, since students source more snacks to commercial restaurants compared to on-campus. College and University foodservices should consider implementing food trucks on campus in order to bring hot, fresh foods to the masses.

Food and Drink: For Young Millennials, the definition of convenient eating is snacking. They are snacking more often to replace meals and also are trading down to less expensive products, which goes back to their preference for low cost options. Young Millennials are snacking for a variety of reasons because they’re always hungry, it’s cost effective, and viewed as healthier than eating three square meals per day. They’re more likely to indulge at home, compared to away from home, and also more likely to make impulse purchases while on the go.

Foodservice: Young Millennials are part of the driving forces behind the changing definition of healthful eating in America. This demographic views health through a holistic “lens,” as they are more likely to define a healthy restaurant meal as something that is organic, made with functional ingredients, or is vegetarian and vegan. Young Millennials are also more likely to use customization as restaurants as a way to create their own custom healthy dish. However, Young Millennials still have their vices and 17% feel like they are missing out when they order healthy foods when dining out. The key for operators is to strike the perfect balance of healthy and indulgent foods for this age group.

Food and Drink: At retail, Young Millennials look for products with added health benefits, such as Omega-3s, and protein, as well as foods with low/no claims, such as low sodium, or no fat. They also are most likely to look for natural, organic, or gluten free snacks, compared to older generations. And, they tend to be more likely to diet, but not all of the time. Young Millennials also are looking for clean product labels, but don’t always trust the health-related claims found on product packaging. Nearly half of Young Millennials (49%) are confused by the number of food claims on packaging, and 59% are skeptical about health-related product claims, such as gluten-free, or GMO-free. Manufacturers should remain transparent about their ingredients and product claims, to help consumers, especially younger consumers, feel less skeptical about the health claims on the products they purchase.

Foodservice: Young Millennial’s attraction to customization stems from their cultural diversity, as well as their desire to make dining out a unique experience for themselves. This age group tends to be more adventurous with their palate, and seek out ethnic flavors like Chilean and Korean, as well as spicy peppers and flavors like jalapeños and chile de arbol. Additionally, regarding fast casual, 30% of Young Millennials say that the ability to customize is important to them when considering what restaurant to visit. For this demographic, continually offering new ways to customize foods (eg Blaze Pizza and even Arby’s “Meat Mountain”) can help keep this form of dining stay fresh into the future.

Food and Drink: Young Millennials also enjoy the ability to customize their food experience with products they buy at retail. They tend to gravitate toward products that allow them to customize their experience, especially because the frequency of which they are snacking demands variety to keep things interesting. Several food and beverage products on the market such as the ability to create your own six pack of craft beer, or DiGiorno’s Design a Pizza kit, are examples of ways consumers can customize their experience.

Foodservice: Valuable connections with Young Millennials are created through social media, corporate responsibility, as well as through connections with their own social circle. Brands like Taco Bell and Panera are examples of restaurants that are making the most of social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest by taking time to interact with their followers. Young Millennials are also interested in giving back to their communities with time, knowledge, and monetary donations and restaurants like Native Foods have created an outlet for this kind of philanthropy. And lastly, more restaurants are creating community seating areas to encourage young diners to expand their social circle and break bread with new friends.

Food and Drink: Young Millennials are connecting with retail brands through corporate social responsibility initiatives, including those that donate profits to charity, or recycle product packaging to create items such as backpacks or notebooks. Young Millennials are also connecting with communities and place importance on buying brands that make a difference in their community or are from local sources. They are also connecting with each other; they’re more likely to by family size or multi-serving food products, and enjoy cooking to entertain or impress their friends.

See some of the top tweets from the webinar below:

This webinar is part of an ongoing series hosted by Mintel analysts for the benefit of our clients. To learn more about becoming a Mintel client click here

Amanda Topper is an analyst specializing in the food industry. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks.

Katrina Fajardo joined Mintel’s Foodservice reports team with a background that includes data analysis, presentations to restaurant operators and food manufacturers, and consumer behavior tracking. She is now involved in researching and writing reports that cover the broad, evolving world of Foodservice, including commercial, non-commercial, and menu exploration. Her focus is to create insightful and actionable reports that deliver valuable takeaways for clients.

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