The Millennial Food Paradox

It’s an understatement to say that millennials are shaping the food industry. In fact, many believe they are just getting started. These 22-to-39-year-olds have come with new ideas, a new relationship with food and new requirements that retailers and restaurants are meeting in order to be successful with this generation.  

And the millennial buying power ($2.26 trillion), sheer numbers (77.5 million) and cultural influence give this generation the clout to get noticed by organizations that want their business. We became interested in the forces that drive some millennials to spend more time and money at one establishment over another.

In describing the millennial generation’s influence on the ways food is purchased and experienced, some in the food industry have dubbed a name for this phenomenon—The Millennial Food Paradox.

The world in which the millennials have grown up makes them a challenge for food marketers. They have a digital native mindset—they’re compulsive multi-taskers, hyper-connected and can fulfill data demands within seconds of inquiring about a source of information. The more striking aspect of this paradox is that millennials have high expectations for food—open transparency from food sources, readily and easily available foods and things, prioritization of experiences over material goods—but expect to put forth less effort to obtain what they want. The food industry has already responded, and a reflection of the millennial food paradox can be seen throughout foodservice and retail.

Restaurants are changing their offerings to create a more multifaceted eating experience. Consumers want specialized, less automated and mass produced experiences. Chefs are working overtime to create a more connected, emotional and sensory experience by truly personalizing consumer meals.

  • Fat Duck, a restaurant in the UK, lets guests submit personal information about themselves and in exchange, the Chef creates a menu that is a “map of the diners’ journey” in life.
  • Anthony Bordain’s Bordain Market features over 100 vendors from New York.

Driven by their passion for food, millennials are disrupting traditional kitchen dynamics and baffling older generations by redefining what it means to eat at home. With fewer skills and less of a need to cook compared to previous generations, millennials see cooking as more of a novel, special experience. Eating out is seen as just as affordable as eating at home. As a result, food retailers are changing the grocery shopping experience for millennials.

  • Whole Foods locations are adding selfie walls, self-order kiosks and even tattoo parlors
  • Target is letting customers drink beer and wine while they shop
  • Trader Joe’s is expanding their variety of prepared authentic meals and offering food/drink samples

Keeping up with the millennial trends, the National Peanut Board recently gathered over 35 distinguished chefs and food bloggers at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif., to discuss and create dishes that would appeal to millennials. Here are some of their creations:

Spring Snap Pea Salad with green peanut oil and citrus vinaigrette; Chipotle peanuts smoked quail with Lord Nut Thai peanut scallop surf and turf; Pan-roasted King Salmon with baby ghanoouj and vegetables sautéed in green peanut oil

You must be logged in to view this item.

This area is reserved for members of the news media. If you qualify, please update your user profile and check the box marked "Check here to register as an accredited member of the news media". Please include any notes in the "Supporting information for media credentials" box. We will notify you of your status via e-mail in one business day.