Millennials are shaping the future of food

Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) are the second-largest demographic cohort in Canada(representing almost a quarter of the Canadian population), but are quickly eclipsing Baby Boomers in importance given their projected growth in terms of future spending power and rising sphere of influence. Canadian Millennials are not a homogenous cohort, especially given the various life stages they represent, from young singles to young parents and in-between. As they mature and age, many of this group’s consumption habits, wants and desires will dictate the future of eating in Canada.

Millennials’ Approach to Three Square Meals a Day
Though the majority of Millennials’ meal occasions are sourced from home and are either consumed in the home or carried from home, this cohort is also the most likely to eat out at foodservice outlets. However, in year over year tracking from Ipsos FIVE, consumption rates outside the home are declining, driven by reduced frequency of eating out during both dinner and snack occasions.

Two-thirds of Millennials’ consumption behaviour occurs at snack. Interestingly, Millennials are more likely than other age group to report adoption of a mini-meal style of eating that includes eating five to six small meals a day rather than focusing on the traditional three squares daily.

This robust snacking behaviour amongst Millennials has not only expanded the definition of a snack beyond a solely in-the-moment indulgence but it has also shifted how long and how much Millennials are eating during those traditional meal occasions.

Millennials Drive Personalization
Millennials increasingly report that they eat alone, cultivating their need for customizable options. Foodservice outlets long ago identified Millennials’ need to order to exacting specifications. Even within the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) channel where combo menu meals offer value pricing, the majority of food items (54%) are ordered outside a combo offer as reported in Ipsos Foodservice Monitor.

Millennials are more likely to report in FIVE that their food and beverage choices are driven by dietary sensitivities and restrictions. However, these decisions are not necessarily medically driven but rather reflect personal preferences. As such, Millennials are more likely to eat foods that are gluten-free, organic, dairy-free, locally sourced/grown or organic.

Millennial Meal Preparation Habits
While Millennials are less likely to prepare meals, once they begin to establish their own families, they do begin cooking more often at home.

When whipping up a dinner in the kitchen, Millennials (the masters of convenience, ease and speed), are more likely than others to opt for partially homemade, heat-and-eat or ready-to-eat meal solutions rather than cook from scratch. In fact, according to FIVE, just 47% of items consumed at dinner among Millennials are completely homemade, compared to 60% of items among non-Millennial meal preparers being completely homemade.

Millennials are most likely to use the stovetop to prepare dinner items and less likely to use the microwave oven.

Millennials report that challenges to nightly dinner preparation include a lack of menu ideas, lack of ingredients on-hand and lack of time.

Not surprisingly, when Millennials do prepare dinner they are most often motivated by real food solutions that have fewer and simpler ingredients and dynamic taste profiles, but they have to be easy and quick. Millennials consume less meat/protein products than non-Millennials and are also more likely to follow a vegan/vegetarian diet.

Millennials are Redefining Health
Millennials have a rising food IQ born from a growing interest in health, increasing awareness of personal dietary preferences and a quest to understand the product story from point of origin through the path to market. Fueling this growing healthy food fixation is availability and easy access to information.

Millennials are going online to make more informed choices about what to eat and drink, including how to prepare it, where to buy it or how to get it delivered. According to Ipsos’ Canadian Media Landscape Study for the period ending December 31, 2014, Millennials spend about five hours a day consuming media, led by watching, browsing and social networking.

In the 2015 Ipsos FIVE Healthy Eating Indicator, Millennials ranked the top variables among 27 elements that are the most predictive in defining healthy behaviour as follows: drinking water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, high fibre intake, eating well-balanced meals, limiting sugar intake, and eating less processed foods.

More than half of Canadians report that they read the Nutrition Facts Table (NFt) regularly and, among those, two-thirds say that this information influences their decision to buy a product. While the majority of Millennials also read the NFt, they are more likely to identify Ingredient Label detail as the most important variable impacting choice.

In tandem with taste preference and nutrient intake, Millennials also indicate a growing interest in deriving functional benefits from both foods and ingredients that they eat and drink. They are more often motivated to choose items that assist with gut health, bone health, skin health, brain health and insomnia, to name just a few. Google Food Trends recently reported increased searches for healthy ingredients like turmeric, apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, bitter melon, and kefir.

Millennials are not a Homogeneous Cohort As the Millennial generation matures, their needs will continue to fragment, particularly given shifting life stages. As such, Millennials should not be evaluated as a homogenous cohort. Rather, to concisely evaluate habits, beliefs and practices they need to be viewed in segments of Trailing Millennials (20-25 years), Leading Millennials without Kids (26-35) and Millennials with Kids (26-35).

Millennials of all ages are gatherers of information, especially to inform and curate their abundance of choice. Greater access through various digital technologies has opened doors to this generation that previous generations of consumers never had available. This access will only expand in the future through technologies that include wearable devices, app-connected smart devices in the kitchen and numerous other interactive platforms and tools.

Food and beverage manufacturers must now act in a completely transparent way as modern consumers, led by Millennials, are able to pinpoint exactly what they want to eat and why.


Kathy Perrotta is
Vice President, Ipsos Reid – Canada Marketing East

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