Millennials: What’s On the Plate?

If you’re anything like us, you have probably spent just a little bit of time reading about Millennials, especially their food and dining preferences. Here’s a brief synopsis of what we know. Millennials like:

  • customization – call it the Chipotle Factor
  • sriracha –the condiment of their generation
  • shooting their food – Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter- all vehicles to share their meals
  • craft – beer, vodka, anything that is handcrafted
  • snacks – whether influenced by early exposure to tapas or their fast-paced childhoods running from one activity to another, these kids eat a lot on the go.

We know they want high-tech, the higher the better. Instant, fast, immediate. They are the pioneers of fast-casuals and early adopters of the mixology movement, influencing restaurateurs to reformulate concepts, pare and refine menus, and expand cocktail offerings. But at the same time, Millennials surprisingly yearn for nostalgia, authenticity, transparency and the desire to be a part of helping companies innovate and communicate. And this paradox is why Millennials confound manufacturers and can feel like a moving target.


Hungry for Everything

It is important that we appreciate the Millennial consumer for their seemingly contradictory behavior so that we can understand what drives their choices. At the very least, they are HUNGRY all the time it seems and that is something we can appreciate. And they are hungry for dining out, eating in, late night snacks, all day snacks…just like Baby Boomers and Generation X. The difference is HOW they go about satisfying that belly rumble.

Recently, Target, wanting to expand their grocery offering to appeal to Millennials, identified seven areas to center their grocery sections around:

  1. yogurt and granola
  2. coffee and tea
  3. candy
  4. snacks including healthier options not just Doritos
  5. beer and wine
  6. meat
  7. fruits and vegetables (yep, the “5 a day” campaign worked. They eat more than their parents)

Interesting, right? This list could be seen as the mindset of the Millennial. Health conscious (fruits, veggies, yogurt granola) punctuated by periods of indulgence (meat, candy), with a strong sense of community bonding (coffee, tea), and a high need of sociability (beer, wine, snacks).

Mintel identifies 66% of Millennials to be ‘Casual Cooking Enthusiasts’ in their everyday lives and found that1:

  • 86% enjoy experimenting with new recipes
  • 61% buy ingredients that are from different countries for specific recipes
  • 58% buy utensils, cookware and other kitchen items if they need them for a new recipe or cooking technique
  • 57% always try to cook with seasonal or local foods
  • 55% are willing to spend more money for the highest quality ingredients

And here’s a little fun fact you might not know about Millennials:  They are obsessed with Mason jars. And they have elevated this lowly, humble vessel to cult status. Whether it contains a craft cocktail or a salad, Millennials love it in a Mason jar. Do a quick search on Pinterest for “mason jars” “food” and prepare to be amazed. Thousands of pins pop up with info on how to bake bread, make a salad, a pizza, whole dinner…layered desserts… Oh yes, all in a mason jar. And Millennials are eating this info up, as are savvy manufacturers. 7-11 is even serving the ubiquitous Slurpee in a Mason jar.

So what does all this mean? Millennials want to cook and put everything in a Mason jar? Not really. But what it means is they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to eat home and dine out and have their choices customized to their preferences. And they’re willing to pay extra or a little more for it especially if they can get it faster, quicker, and tastes out of this world. For example, urban dwelling Millennials are more than three times as likely as a Baby Boomer to pay a premium for same-day delivery. Concepts like Chipotle, Blue Apron, Plated, Amazon Fresh…they all understand the Millennial mindset. They all offer:

  • Fast, easy
  • Fresh, authentic, trend worthy, ingredients with bold flavors
  • Make it easy to assemble DIY foodie-revered meals
  • Transparent, simple order and delivery process
  • Customization

Let’s face it: the Millennial certainly isn’t as hard to figure out compared to which pepper to put into your next snack application. Just don’t try too hard to be too cool or too obvious and you just might reach them…if you snap it AND put it in a Mason jar.