For the Millennial generation , food is more than sustenance—it's entertainment and self expression.
The Millennials are the generation born in the '80s, '90s and early 2000s. They are young trendsetters shaping the face of many industries, including fashion, entertainment, dating and — not least of all — food. This generation is reshaping the restaurant industry in a major way and as they enter the workforce they have some serious purchasing power.
In the young generation, it’s trendy to be a foodie and to be passionate about what you're eating. Many Millennials will seek out gourmet food experiences such as artisanal cheeses and craft beers rather than the large brand names. They are also willing to spend more on these premium food experiences, as they appreciate the higher quality and uniqueness.
Let’s take a look into some of ways that Millennials are shaping the food and beverage industry:
Whether hosting a dinner at home or hitting happy hour with their friends, Millennial diners prefer to eat with company. They enjoy eating as a social activity, perhaps even ordering several small dishes to share. Certain international cuisines, such as Spanish tapas, Chinese dim sum, and Japanese sushi are popular for this reason. They involve small dishes that are perfect for sharing with a group. Many restaurant chains are starting to think about communal dining when planning their layout and seating.
Millennials also tend to grocery shop in groups and are more likely to ask for opinions and recommendations from friends before buying food. They're much more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family when shopping, rather than advertisements.
This is also true for choosing where to eat out. With 68% of Millennials asking friends for an opinion before selecting a restaurant, it's no surprise that online review websites such as TripAdvisor and Zomato have become so popular.
Millennial diners want things their way. According to data from Small Business Forum, 21% of them want their meals to be customizable. This is why fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle are so popular — they have endless customizable menu options. The origins for this trend might be attributed to Starbucks, which offers 87,000 possible different variations on their drinks.
Many other food chains are experimenting with new ways of appealing to the desire for customization. McDonald’s is creating a build-your-own-burger menu and Pizza Hut is getting into it as well, with a customizable pizza program.
Millennials go crazy for gourmet and artisanal foods. They are looking for unique taste and high quality and 87% will splurge on a nice meal even when the money is tight. They love exotic and interesting international foods, “farm to table” experiences, ethically sourced meats, spicy sauces such as sriracha, and complex, fermented flavors such as kimchi and kombucha.
Pepsi has even launched an “artisanal” soda line called “Caleb’s Kola” with a tumblr-style website that is trying to capture the attention of the Millennial audience. Just scroll through to see a plethora of Millennial-bait — including brunch burgers with egg and sriracha, Vietnamese skewers perfect for sharing with a group and a shot of friends making a toast to the weekend.
Millennials are looking for new and exotic artisanal flavors to try. For example, they love chicken wings but the variety of glazes and dipping sauces is almost as exciting as the wings themselves. A whopping 40% of Millennials order something different every time they visit a restaurant.
Food trucks are popular for this reason, as they offer the opportunity to try new foods in a casual social setting. Also, offering appetizers and small bites will appeal to Millennials, as it allows them to try something new without having to commit to the entire entree.
Healthy and environmentally friendly
Millennials are concerned about the environment, so anything recyclable, organic, or biodegradable will appeal to them. They're willing to spend more on foods that are healthier, taste better, and are better for the environment. According to statistics gathered by the Nielsen Perishables Group, 30% of Millennials prefer to eat foods that are certified organic. This is compared to 21% of Gen X-ers and just 15% of Baby Boomers.
One of the most important trends is the concept of visible sustainability, which was identified by Forbes as one of the most important consumer packaged goods trends for millennials. This means that brands should demonstrate their sustainability and commitment to environmental issues with biodegradable packaging. After all, the simple act of selecting a beverage to enjoy during their lunch break says something about a Millennial's values and identity.
59% of Millennials are willing to pay more for a brand that fits the image that they want to show to the world. They are also more suspicious of brand claims than previous generations. If they don’t have proof of a brand’s low environmental impact, they may not believe it.
This is linked to the popularity of the Farm to Table movement, which encourages minimizing the distance that food travels between the producer and the final consumer. This can also be a very important consideration when choosing where to eat.
Thankfully, the most important thing is always good food — and probably always will be. 60% of Millennials think that great food is the most important thing when it comes to choosing a restaurant. That's something that every restaurateur—and eater—can celebrate.