Born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, Generation X makes up 14% of the population,1 but their economic impact is huge. Eighty-one million consumers strong, they control 31% of total income dollars in the US2 and boast $125 billion in spending power.1 Data like this led Yahoo! to conclude that America’s most overlooked generation is also America’s most influential. And because Gen Xers tend to have a robust appetite for dining out (43% of them eat out a minimum of once a week, on par with millennials),1 foodservice operators risk leaving a lot of business on the table by not understanding their preferences and addressing their needs.
As the marketing director for the Boston Consulting Group explained, “part of the reason marketers aren’t interested in Gen Xers is because they’re a bridge generation between millennials and boomers.” But with a median annual income that rises as high as $70.8k (significantly higher than other age groups),3 Generation X also represents a bridge to a higher check average and potential for greater profitability for foodservice and restaurant operations.
X Marks the Spot: Uncovering Gen X Insights
Given the attention lavished on the snacking trends of other generations, it should come as no surprise if Generation X feels neglected by the foodservice industry. But what are the key characteristics and drivers foodservice operators should bear in mind when marketing to Gen Xers? Here are a few takeaways from the Yahoo study:3
They’re mobile-driven: 79% of Gen Xers use smartphones – a number expected to hit 88% by 2018.
They’re social: 80 million visited a social media site in the previous month and 43% shared social media content.
They’re engaged: 13.5 million posted ratings or reviews; 21.8 million paid attention to rating or reviews.
They eat up food content: 34% consume food and cooking-related content each month.
They’re well-informed: Nearly 8 in 10 researched products the previous month, with 26% looking to satisfy their curiosity about food or beverages.
Older and Bolder: Adventurous Snack Trends
As the generation that comprises 55% of startup founders,3 Generation X is wired toward adventure and experimentation. Over one in four have started their own business or taken steps to launch one,3 and 31% consider themselves entrepreneurial.3 Gen Xers tend to be groundbreakers and trailblazers, so it’s not surprising that they’re interested in new culinary experiences as well. Menu innovation that includes unexpected and inventive twists on familiar favorites is likely to make their mouths water, especially if it caters to the generation’s passion for social, shareable foods and group snacking experiences.
While GenXers enjoy the social aspect of eating out, they lead busy lives and struggle to balance family responsibilities and long work hours. As a result, they appreciate the speed and convenience of a good food delivery program. In fact, GenXers order restaurant delivery more often than any other group.1 Quick, reliable delivery could be a key X factor to help drive sales and loyalty for this group.
Older, Wiser, and Concerned About Food Quality
As they get older, Gen Xers also become more health conscious. “Health is a major area of concern for middle-aged Gen Xers, as 17% of them have experienced a health ‘wake-up call’ in the past three years,” said David Iudica, Yahoo’s Senior Director of Strategic Insights and Research.4 A growing awareness of their mortality may motivate them to favor healthy snacks and avoid processed foods with artificial additives and long shelf lives. In gravitating toward fresh options and natural ingredients, Gen Xers helped set the stage for the millennial obsession with better-for-you food choices and the clean label movement.
What steps have you taken to feed the Gen X appetite for on-the-go snacks that don’t skimp on taste? Or do you think it makes more sense to stay focused on the millennial market? Share your thoughts below.
4 Iudica, David, “The overlooked influence of Gen X,” Yahoo, Sept. 12, 2016,