They’re avoiding home ownership, car shopping and landlines in favor of urban living, ride-sharing and mobile phones, but Millennials share a love of good food with Boomers as well as a growing interest in health, culinary adventure and ethical eating. It’s the motivations and communication styles that differ most.
In our review of trends impacting the nation’s biggest eaters – Boomers and Millennials make up more than half the country’s population and purchasing power – we found a parallel path of interests, with Millennials leading technology adoption and their older peers eager to keep up. (Full disclosure, I’m a Gen Xer.)
When you compare trends, it’s easy to see that Boomers, a generation of people determined not to age, are watching and adopting Millennial behavior in part to stay young in both spirit and body. Memorable experiences are central to both, but for Millennials food is rooted in self-expression, while Boomers are motivated more by staying relevant.
I’m lucky to have a wide lens on consumer behavior thanks to a long history working with natural food leaders. To help marketers consider new ways to reach the two largest demographics, we captured key trends in an infographic, Bites by Generation. Here’s a closer look.
Transparency Drives Label Reading Among Millennials, Anti-Aging for Boomers
Boomers are more interested in nutrition than ever, seeking functional foods that contribute to health, specifically brain, bone, skin, joints and eyes. Millennials, on the other hand, are less inclined to count calories or seek specific nutrients, and more interested in the provenance, integrity and quality of ingredients. While Millennials are most likely to seek organic, (30% eat organic foods compared to 15% of Boomers), interest in organic among Boomers is growing, with more than half saying they buy more today.
Bored with the Ordinary, Millennials Push Envelope on Flavor
The global flavors Millennials already expect are making their way onto the plates of Boomers, inspired by the younger generation and looking to relive the experience of their travels. That said, appetite for culinary experiences is no greater than among Millennials with 9 out of 10 wanting to try new flavors, compared with only 53% of Boomers. Whether eating out or dining in, food is a source of entertainment and engagement for Millennials; it’s the arbiter of cool. They want unexpected flavor combinations, exotic ingredients, heat and spice. They want to be surprised.
Generations Share Attraction to Fresh, Less-Processed Foods
They may be a generation raised on frozen dinners and canned goods but Boomers, like their Millennial counterparts, seek fresher, cleaner ingredients, from ready-to-eat grocery items to fast food. On the home front Boomers are looking for more control over their health, while Millennials seek quality ingredients. Both are looking for quality and flavor, and are driving huge growth in ready-to-eat meals. When they do cook, Boomers are more likely to eat alone, while their Millennial counterparts see it as a form of expression and chance for bragging rights.
Eating is Social
Mobile phones are an essential tool and an extension of self for Millennials; 85% have a smartphone. As a result, they’re used to comparing prices in store, accessing coupons, ordering ahead and making restaurant reservations. They’re curating and capturing their food-related experiences on blogs, Tumblr, and Instagram. Millennials are also three times more likely than others to rely on information from blogs (who needs cookbooks?) and social networks where they seek validation from friends on what and where to eat. Boomers are working to keep up, and make the fastest growing segments on both Twitter and Facebook
Boomers and Millennials Unite on Ethical Values
A shared concern for societal welfare bonds the two generations, which both vote with their wallets to prompt change. Ethically sourced meats top concerns among Millennials, which are willing to switch brands, with price and product quality being equal. They also expect brands to “do good” so they can feel good about their purchase, and themselves.
Marketing Implications Spanning the Generations
For food manufacturers and marketers, there are some basic, yet important takeaways no matter the demographic: