How millennials snack

Millennials snack

From Mondelēz International Foodservice.

Members of the millennial generation love to snack, and catering to them is a great way to increase traffic and sales in foodservice operations.

However, don’t assume that this huge group of 20- and 30-somethings—Pew Research Center pegged their numbers at 77 million—snacks the same way as other generations. Understanding the needs and behavior of millennials is essential to the success of your snack program.

It’s important to realize how severely millennials have been affected by the Great Recession—and the stagnant economy and high unemployment left in its wake. Many are saddled with large student loan debt. A sizable number reside with their parents. Compared to the well-established and more secure baby boomers, millennials are necessarily more careful about parting with their disposable income.

Even though they may not spend as freely as they might wish, millennials still enjoy going out and socializing with friends over snacks. Thus, moderate prices and value for the money are important to them. Menus catering to millennials should include reasonably priced items to avoid causing sticker shock.

Given their strong social orientation, it’s wise to offer millennials snack and dessert items in formats that encourage sharing and group dynamics, such as small plates, bar bites, combo meals, samplers and tasting flights. One format that some operations are exploring is a make-your-own menu deal that invites patrons to choose three or four small plates for a fixed price, such as three for $15. This allows a group of friends to enjoy a variety of nibbles without busting the budget.

In self-service or limited-service operations, an eye-catching display of packaged, branded snack crackers and cookies at the cashier counter can resonate with patrons and encourage spur-of-the-moment purchases.

When it comes to selecting snack items for millennials, include some bold flavor profiles. Many members of this group—which is more ethnically and racially diverse than older generations, according to Pew Research Center—have grown up eating lively global fare or learned to love it from college foodservice and ethnic restaurants.

Understanding the snacking patterns of millennials is also important for tailoring your selection. According to a new study by Y-Pulse and the Culinary Visions Panel, younger millennials (ages 19 to 25) snack more often in the past year and favor a “snack throughout the day” lifestyle. Middle millennials (ages 26-30) are snacking most during the late afternoon and before dinner. Older millennials (ages 31-36) are snacking in the mid-morning and late afternoon at about the same amount as they did a year ago.

Speaking of sales opportunities, consider offering grab-and-go snacks as breakfast substitutes. Millennials on the whole, especially those in college, are not particularly fond of breakfast as a formal, sit-down meal early in the morning. They often prefer to pick up a package of crackers, cookies, muffins or breakfast biscuits and a coffee or bottled beverage on the way to class or work.

Also, be aware that millennials are interested in good nutrition—to a point. According to a new Technomic study on snacking, 50 percent of consumers indicate that healthfulness is very important to them when choosing a snack. Thus, it’s wise to include healthful options such as whole-grain crackers and enriched breakfast biscuits in the lineup for such moments. But also be sure to have cookies, candy and indulgent dessert items on hand for the times when they want a treat.

For additional insights into the behavior of millennials and other consumer groups, consider partnering with a major packaged goods company that will share in-depth consumer research and trend analysis along with market-leading brands. Such collaboration can make a big difference in the success of a snack program. 

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