Food, Glorious Food; Millennial Trends In The National Marketplace

The USDA found prosperous millennials buy more fruits and vegetables than economically challenged ones.


Oreo. Doritos. Hershey. They are American millennials’ favorite packaged food and beverage brands according to survey research technology firm Morning Consult. Followed by Ritz, Gatorade, Kellogg’s Cheetos, Heinz, Pillsbury and Tostitos, these top 10 brands represent what the “kids,” 18 to 29-year-olds, are eating these days. Brand standouts among the younger generation include Red Bull, Monster Beverages and Hot Pockets.

Millennial food habits seem to be turning the tables on national trends.

As you reach for the Rolaids, consider millennials are now the largest living generation in the U.S., surpassing Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1965. The United States Department of Agriculture(USDA) reports the millennial demographic is “more diverse” than previous generations and that establishing their careers during the Great Recession, from December 2007 through June 2009, likely affected the way they spend money on and shop for food today.

The USDA found older people spend more for “food at home” than younger people, and that despite millennials’ affection for the pre-packaged chips and chocolate they eat at home, they are seeking healthier and fresher foods when they eat out.

The recent USDA Food Expenditure Series report shows expenditures by all purchasers (households, government and businesses) between 1997 and 2014 for food at home were revised downward by an average of $22.4 billion (-4.2 percent) and that expenditures for “food away from home” were revised upward by an average of $13.3 billion (+2.5 percent). 

An USDA Economic Research Service report supports the findings that as millennial households become richer, food away from home is surpassing food at home consumption. Millennials shop the least for food at the grocery store than any other generation, and they consume food in a restaurant or at a bar at around 30 percent more often than any other generation. 

Restaurants’ sales between 1997 and 2017 grew an average of about 5.3 and 5.5 percent per year, but slowed for limited-service restaurants and declined for full-service restaurants in 2009. 

Nationally, food at home expenditures declined from 71.4 to 58.4 percent between 1997 and 2017.

Data shows millennials also spend less on grains, white meat and red meat and more on prepared foods, pasta, and sugar/ sweets than any other generation. As for fruits and vegetables, the reports found prosperous millennials do buy more produce than economically challenged ones.

The USDA established time is a top commodity for millennials who choose to spend an average of 12 minutes less a day eating and drinking than older generations who clock in at 77 minutes per day. Millennials also spend 55 minutes less a day than Gen X’ers (born between 1965 to 1980) on food preparation, presentation and cleanup, who spend an average of 143 minutes a day.

Morning Consult market trends include:

• Only 33 percent of American adults have purchased food products online, and men (38 percent) are more likely to have done so than women (29 percent).

• Among those who haven’t purchased food products online, 65 percent say they don't have any interest in doing so in the future. A majority says it’s because they “generally prefer to purchase in-person.”

• Among 21 common product label terms, “vegan” was the most likely to turn customers off, with 35 percent saying it would make a product less appealing and just 17 percent saying more appealing. “Diet” was second, with 31 percent saying less appealing and 26 percent more appealing. The three terms that are most likely to get people to buy are “fresh,” “farm-fresh” and “sourced from American farmers.”

• Younger Americans are more drawn to organic products – 54 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds say the term “organic” makes a product more appealing, compared to 37 percent of those 65 or older.

• Forty-five percent of Americans say they would pay an extra $.50 on a small grocery item if it was a brand they knew and liked.

• Just 20 percent of Americans are willing to pay $6 or more to have groceries delivered. Twenty-nine percent would pay $1 to $5, and 51 percent would not be willing to pay extra at all.


         For more information: 

United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

Morning Consult



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