15 Ways Millennials Are Changing The Food Industry

August 27, 2019

Millennials – the youngest of them were born in 1996 – are currently the largest living generation. They even surpass the previous generation of baby boomers. Many of these younger adults have graduated from college and are currently working professionals. Millennials have a bad reputation, but most of them are actually doing a lot of good in the world and initiating change.

In fact, millennials make up 30% of the population in the United States, according to Brookings. As the most populous generation, their lifestyles and spending habits have the opportunity to shape how companies market and conduct business. Where millennials choose to spend their money and what they spend their money on can affect many other generations. Their impact is especially prevalent in the food industry.

Millennial food trends tend to favor eating out at restaurants more than previous generations, for example. They also appreciate knowing the origins of their food.

Here are 15 ways millennials are changing the food industry.

1. They’re more health-conscious.

There’s a reason why wellness and self-care are such trendy topics right now.

Millennials have access to the growing amount of health-related information thanks to the internet, according to Yale University. As the wellness trend rises, opportunities to access other resources increase as well. According to a study by The Halo Group, 65% of people who were born after 1975 regularly visit nutritionists. About 58% of them visit dieticians. And 54% consult with personal trainers to live healthier lifestyles.

Food is, perhaps, the biggest component of health-consciousness. And nine out of 10 millennials consider healthy eating to be a major part of wellness.

2. They invest in more sustainable lifestyles.

Say what you want about millennials, but they’re all about sustainable living.

According to a 2015 Nielson poll of 30,000 people in 60 countries, 66% of individuals said they were willing to invest in buying sustainable products. Of those who said they would spend extra on sustainability, a whopping 73% were millennials.

“Today’s consumers don’t want to buy a product, they want to buy a lifestyle,” Rishabh Chokhani, the CEO of Naturevibe Botanicals, told Inc. “People want to feel that whatever they are buying aligns with their personal values. That’s why we’re seeing a shift towards sustainable farming, farm-to-table, and organic botanical ingredients.”

3. They eat less meat.

Millennials are eating less meat, which is great for the environment.

Animal products are one of the many things that contribute to pollution. Specifically, animal waste releases more greenhouse gases into the air which causes the earth’s temperature to rise and contributes to the global warming crisis. Instead of consuming meat, millennials are moving to more plant-based products. Fiona Dyer, a consumer analyst at GlobalData, told Forbes:

The shift toward plant-based foods is being driven by millennials, who are most likely to consider the food source, animal welfare issues, and environmental impacts when making their purchasing decisions.

4. They love organic food.

Millennials make up more than half of organic product consumers.

In addition to eating less meat, millennials are upping their organic food intake. According to the Organic Trade Association, 52% of people who consume organic products are millennials. Although many products contain GMOs, more than 60% of millennials want foods free of modified ingredients. Plus, they’re willing to pay more to incorporate those items into their diets.

5. Their love for organic food influences baby food, too.

It’s not just millennials who benefit from organic food; their babies do too.

Older millennials are making better food choices not just for themselves, but for their children as well. And it shows in their preference for baby food. According to The Organic Report, 52% of people said that baby food was the most important organic food category, followed by fruits and vegetables.

6. They support locally-sourced foods.

When it comes to food, millennials prioritize local goods.

Not only do millennials favor organic products. They also want more transparency and to know exactly where their products came from. According to QSR, 68% of millennials would rather buy locally sourced ingredients. Almost just as many of them are willing to pay more for them. Buying locally-sourced foods supports smaller businesses and can help communities thrive.

7. They are ditching plastic straws.

Millennials love convenient products and services but not at the expense of the planet and animals.

People use over 500 million straws daily. And because most aren’t biodegradable, those straws end up in the ocean. However, the build-up of plastic straws damages our water system and marine life, according to Lonely Whale’s For A Strawless Ocean campaign. That’s why millennials are saying goodbye to plastic straws. The shift even encouraged more restaurants to ban the use of plastic straws.

“It’s a differentiation move in my opinion to satisfy the shifting consumer,” JoAnn Martin, the vice president of retail strategy in North America for JDA Software, a retail and supply chain software company, told Market Watch. She went on to say, “Socially conscious retailers resonate with millennials. They value companies that share their beliefs.”

8. They’re cutting back on single-use plastics in general.

Millennials aren’t stopping at plastic straws to save the planet.

They also pass on other single-use products. Plastic bags, for example, are banned in eight states. And retailers charge fees for those who use them. In addition to vetoing plastic bags, millennials are being more mindful of single-use plastic cups and utensils. Their reservations make businesses rethink their packaging to include eco-friendly options.

9. They support ethical and humane businesses.

Millennials are influencing brands to be more socially responsible.

Not only do millennials want to know where their food comes from and what’s good for them, but they also seek out and want to support ethical businesses. According to food expert and Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern, millennials are demanding large companies to be sustainable and have humane business practices when it comes to the products they’re selling and how they’re treating their employees.

“They’re going to be voting with their wallets over those products,” Zimmern noted.

10. Millennials are all about customizable fast-casual eats.

It’s not exactly fast food, but it’s not fine dining either.

The trend of build-your-own fast-casual restaurants is on the rise, thanks to millennials. According to The Nafem Show, 72% of consumers expect customization when it comes to getting food on the go. In fact, this millennial food trend led to an increase in products like food bowls, like smoothie bowls for breakfast and burrito bowls for dinner.

11. They’re the reason the meal kit industry is thriving.

Delivery services are an easy way to add variety to your meal plan.

And millennials seem to love the accessibility. Meal preparation can make the week so much easier. But it can be hard to find the time to do it during the average millennial schedule. Enter the meal kit boom. Meal kit services bring ingredients and recipes straight to the door on a weekly basis. They also provide portioned ingredients, which can cut back on food waste, Time reported.

12. They’re partially responsible for the popularity of online grocery shopping.

Rather than heading to the store, more millennials shop for groceries online.

Shopping for groceries online has quite a few perks. You can skip long lines and avoid lugging heavy bags to your car or apartment. For busy millennials who might not have the time to go to the store, grocery shopping online is a no-brainer. According to The Packer, grocery e-commerce increased by 24% since 2016. Now, 30% to 60% of millennials buy their groceries online.

13. Millennials love food trucks.

Food truck fare is convenient, inexpensive, and usually delicious.

When the weather starts to warm up, you most likely see more and more food trucks out and about. And millennials are all for it. Food trucks provide a variety of foods at affordable price points which are perfect for millennials on the go, according to Michigan State University. Buying from food trucks is also a way to support local, small businesses.

14. They influence the rise of non-alcoholic products.

There’s nothing wrong with having a beer or drinking wine, but a lot of millennials embrace the alcohol-free movement.

You don’t necessarily have to nurse a hangover the day after a night on the town. In fact, there are products on the market that allow consumers to enjoy the cocktail experience sans alcohol. We’re not talking about Shirley Temples, either. According to Business Insider, nonalcoholic beer and cocktail sales have increased in the past five years. The growth likely occurred because millennials are drinking less than baby boomers.

15. They normalized going digital.

It’s no surprise that millennials and younger generations love social media.

But this obsession has been an incredible tool for businesses in the food industry. According to a survey by bar supplies company Nisbets, 93% of people say social media greatly helped businesses. Facebook was ranked the most important social media platform with Twitter following after it. In addition to social media marketing done by the companies themselves, restaurants can expect exposure from many millennial diners.

Do you think millennials are positively influencing any other markets?