A recent report published by the USDA highlighted millennials as the top consumers of prepared foods. With millennials being the largest living consumer population, these purchasing behaviours are significant to the food industry.
According to the USDA, millennials spend less time in grocery stores than Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers. This is indicative of their preference to eat out and purchase convenience foods. Many major grocers have noticed this trend and have invested in expanding their portfolios of prepared food items.
“The differences in food-at-home spending between the generations suggests that the younger generations have a stronger preference for eating out at restaurants, fast food places, and other away-from-home venues. Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, support this finding: survey respondents under the age of 25 allocate the highest proportion of their food budgets (6 percent) to eating out versus the 4.8 percent by respondents between the ages of 55 and 64 years old,” stated the report.
Millennials purposely seek out supermarkets that offer easy meal time solutions and foods that do not take a lot of effort to make. However, the millennial market, being more diverse than other generations, prefers food options that include international cuisines and flavors. Beyond traditional grab-and-go options like sandwiches, pizzas or salads, this demographic looks for more complicated foods that are easy to prepare and consume. Noting this trend, the food industry has developed three different prepared food options: fully prepared meals, heat-and-eat meals and pre-chopped and measured meal kits.
These preferences for convenience foods have given rise to many meat-kit delivery companies. Even popular grocers like Kroger, Whole Foods and Supervalu have invested in easy-to-use meal kit offerings along with fully prepared hot food tables. USDA data found millennials spend about 88 minutes on preparing meals, plating them and cleaning up, which is a significant decrease in time spent compared to Gen X’ers who spend 143 minutes.
Interestingly, even when millennials establish their careers and start families, they do not spend much time in the kitchen. This leads the dominating demographic to spend less money on kitchen staples like basic seasonings and ingredients. However, USDA research shows millennials who earn more money annually tend to spend more money on groceries than their lower income counterparts. Though they still spend less money that Gen X’ers who earn that same income.
“Millennials and Gen X’ers were found to spend the least money per person per month on food at home at all income deciles. As income rises, there is a small positive effect on per capita food-at-home expenditure for most income deciles,” stated the report.
Food manufacturers can take advantage of this new research by investing in more convenience foods. They can also innovate their products by providing additional ingredients for meal planning: meats that come with marinades, salads that come with dressings or pre-chopping vegetables. With the millennial market currently dominating the food industry, manufacturers can expect a lot of growth potential in foods that appeal to this demographic.