Digging Into the Millennial Snacker Mindset, Part 1

Posted in Millennials on April 17, 2017

alex-jones-1246.jpgNow that snacking is no longer an occasional rendezvous but more like a daily love fest, with more than 50% of all eating occasions considered snacking,1 it's more important than ever to understand the mindset and motivations of America's largest demographic group. The fact that 94% of Americans snack at least once a day is an impressive measure of the national love affair with snacking.1 But millennials in particular are head over heels as the generation more likely than any other to snack, with one in four considered “Super Snackers” who feed their hankering four or more times in a single day.1

Millennials are lavishing so much love on snacking, it’s become the consumer packaged good’s industry’s greatest driver of growth.1 Thanks largely to their passion for snack brands, the industry enjoyed its strongest surge in four years.1

Sweet News for Foodservice and Restaurant Operators

Tapping into millennial snack trends to help drive a higher check average for foodservice and restaurant operators as well as retailers. While food retailers serve 63% of “immediate consumption snacking occasions” (when items are purchased within an hour of consumption), foodservice has risen 11 points to 32%.2 Feed the need, feel the love may be the mantra for operators hungry for a bigger bite of the millennial market.

The reasons millennials snack vary widely, but the top three are: Snacking keeps them full between meals (78%), it’s an affordable meal replacement (64%), and it satisfies a yearning (56%).1 The need for an energy boost is another key driver (39%), while some consider snacking healthier than eating three meals a day (20%). Psychological and emotional factors include boredom (27%) and stress (17%).1

Snacking is also daypart-driven and increases as the day progresses, peaking during afternoon and after-dinner periods (43% and 45%, respectively).2 Despite the rise of QSRs, the vast majority of snacking occasions take place at home, and 49% of snacking occurs alone.2 These stats may point the way to even greater growth for grab-and-go snack options, online ordering and speedy delivery.

Operators Do Well to Address Wellness Concerns

Nutrition and wellness are major concerns for millennials, especially among those with children.2 Millennials want foods that are not just better for you but better for your budget. 87% of millennials surveyed reported they not only expect but prefer healthier options when purchasing value snacks.81% expressed interest in the idea of a value brand focused exclusively on better-for-you items, while 30% said they are more likely to trade down to cheaper brands.3 Because they tend to be the most price-conscious consumers, value is a key driver of millennial snack choices.

Price sensitivity is also a determining factor in their desire for new flavor experiences, which are a way of experiencing cultures in regions they can’t afford to visit. Scott Svihula, owner of Hula Consulting, an Orlando, Floridabased tea and coffee consultancy, explains that because millennials are the generation most burdened with college education debt, “they don’t have much disposable income for world travel, so they are using their buying power in food and beverage to explore cultures.”4

So how do we sum up what millennials expect from their snack brands? The marketing consultancy Futurecast and their partner, integrated marketing and ad agency Barkley, identified the following cultural trends driving snacking among millennials:1

Self–Snacks must enhance the quality of life and well-being of the individual consumer.

Society–Snack companies must contribute positively to the broader community.

Planet –Snack companies must use sustainable business practices that protect and nurture the environment.

Binge Living– Just as millennials binge watch TV or binge on social media, they are also prone to prolonged periods of snacking.

Flavor Adventure–The millennial appetite for adventure feeds their need for bold flavor profiles.

Any thoughts on how to apply these insights to help drive menu innovation and a higher check average? How do you think foodservice customer service can better serve the needs and preferences of the millennial market?

In part 2 of this post, we'll dig deeper into the psychological factors shaping the millennial snacker mindset.


1 Huff, Skyler, The Snack Hack, FutureCast, Feb. 7, 2017, downloadable here:
2 Hartman Group, The Future of Snacking 2016, Q4 2016
3 Watrous, Monica, “Millennial snacking trends in focus at NACS Show,” Food Business News, Oct. 20, 2016
4 Nation's Restaurant News, “Charting Generational Snacking,” Dec. 16, 2016

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