How Millennials Are Changing The Food Landscape: 2018 Millennial Food Habits Survey

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How Millennials Are Changing The Food Landscape: 2018 Millennial Food Habits Survey

As a part of our work running the Dealspotr Influencer Marketplace, we get to work with some of today's most innovative brands disrupting the food and restaurant industry, as well as leading influencers who blog and vlog about cooking, food trends, and restaurants. 

Millennials eating habits are drastically different from their older counterparts. A LendEDU study found that 49% of millennials surveyed spent more on dining out than they saved for retirement. What they value differs too, for example, 55% of millennials say convenience is the most important factor when buying food, while baby boomers say taste matters more. 

We wanted to delve deeper into some of the millennials habits about food, so we ran a survey of 500 millennial men and women and asked them about their food habits, preferences, and attitudes towards trends. We used Google Surveys to target an audience of 500 men and women aged 25 to 34 living in the United States from October 29, 2018 to October 31, 2018, to collect our data.

What did we find out? 

  • Millennials are skipping the major fast food chains: over 60% eat at fast food chains less than once per week or not at all
  • Millennials don't use Yelp all that much, 44% rely on word of mouth instead of Yelp or other sources to discover new restaurants. 31% don't use Yelp at all.
  • Meal kit services like Blue Apron have low penetration among Millennials at 3% (most thought they were too expensive)

Other findings:

  • Millennials are eating fewer meals per day, 42% eat 2 meals a day or fewer
  • When looking up recipes, Millennials now use Pinterest (22%) more so than recipe websites like AllRecipes (20.3%)
  • 45.2% of Millennials have tried a diet in the past 6 months, and of those the Keto Diet was the most popular at 14%

1/3 of Millennials associate health with "organic"

Question asked: What characteristic do you most closely associate with healthy food?  
The perception of "healthy" is in constant flux (remember the 90's fat-free craze?), but right now, for millennials, it's about being organic.  A 2017 study found that millennial parents (18-35 age range) are the largest group of organic buyers in America. The Collage Group found that 30% of millennials go out of their way to buy organic or natural products. 

Most millennials don't eat fast food regularly 

Question asked: How often do you eat fast food? (McDonalds, Chick-fil-a, Taco Bell, etc) 

We found that 35% of millennials eat fast food less than once a week and 26% don't eat fast food at all. Millennials' decisions to eat less fast food could be linked to both changing food preferences and increased awareness of healthy eating. 

Fewer millennials adhere to three-a-day meal traditions

Question asked: Do you eat three square meals a day? 

A sizable 42% of millennials we surveyed eat less than 3 meals a day. Research shows that this behavior is in contrast with Baby Boomers: A 2012 study found that millennials reported eating fewer meals and more meal skipping than Boomers. A more recent MSN study showed that two-thirds of young adults never or seldom eat breakfast.

Question asked: Which of these diets have you tried in the last 6 months? (select all that apply)

Results in percentages for the 684 answers from 623 respondents : 

  • I don't do any diets: 63.8%
  • Keto/low carb: 13.9%
  • Intermittent fasting: 10.4%
  • Paleo/gluten free: 7.5%
  • Vegan: 7.1%
  • Whole 30: 6%
  • Other: 1.2% 

The high prevalence of the keto diet (high fat/low card) aligns with millennials changing attitudes towards fats. The Coast Packing Company's Animal Fats Study in 2016 found that younger respondents (18-34) are three times more open to animal fats than their elders (35+). Additionally, consumption of animal fats among the 18-34 aged group increased by almost three times (at 14%) over those ages 35+ (at 5%). 

Millennials turn to Pinterest more than recipe websites to find new recipes

Question asked: how do you usually find recipes? 

The second most popular method for millennials to find recipes was Pinterest. Pinterest is an incredibly popular platform, in fact, 1 in 2 millennials use it at least once a month. It's image-heavy and mobile user-friendly format are ideal for easy browsing through recipes. 

Millennials aren't relying on Yelp for restaurant recommendations

Question asked: How do you primarily discover restaurants? 

One thing millennials haven't killed? Word of mouth recommendations. While Google search and Yelp are popular, little beats the trust millennials put in one another. In fact, 68% of millennials said they ask friends before selecting a restaurant. Multiple studies have found that millennials are more strongly influenced by word of mouth recommendations than their Baby Boomer counterparts 

Meal Kit and grocery delivery services aren't taking hold 

Question asked: How do you buy groceries? 

When it comes to grocery shopping, most millennials stick with the tradition option of going to the grocery store. Despite aggressive marketing to the millennial crowd, both meal kit services and grocery delivery services show very low adoption rates. 

Millennials think meal kit services are too expensive 

Question asked: What is a word or phrase you associate with meal kit services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh? (Write in answer) 

We already knew that millennials are wary of meal kits, and our results suggest cost could be the answer, as 26% associated the word "expensive" with meal kit services. 

When looking at 49% of "other" answers we found a common pattern of answers centered around cost or wastefulness. Here are some examples of answers we received: 

The majority of millennials don't want shared plates when eating out

Question asked: When you eat out, what is your meal sharing preference?

As popular as tapas-style restaurants are, we found that the majority of millennials still prefer to eat individual servings instead of shared plates. Despite this, millennials are in favor of sharing in some forms, as 55% prefer communal tables in restaurants.

Millennials aren't using Yelp to make restaurant decisions

Question asked: When looking at Yelp, are a restaurant's reviews or photos more impactful on your decision to go there?

The most surprising answer to this question was the 1/3 of millennials who don't use Yelp at all. When it comes to deciding whether or not to eat a restaurant, perhaps millennials are relying on word-of-mouth recommendations, or depending on other review sources like Google reviews. 

Final thoughts

Millennials have distinct preferences when it comes to food, especially compared to their Baby Boomer counterparts. They deeply value word of mouth over advertising, seek to prioritize health when possible, and won't be swayed by trendy services like meal kits at the expense of their budget. 

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This guide was published on November 13, 2018, and last modified on November 13, 2018.

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