A year in food: Survey reveals millennials' eating and spending habits

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / DGLimages
©GettyImages / DGLimages

Related tags: Millennials, plant-based, Sweet Earth

Each year, millennials spend about $2,242 at the grocery store and $1,672 dining out adding up to around 1,140 hours devoted to food (time spent meal-prepping, cooking, and eating out), a survey of 2,000 millennial consumers commissioned by plant-based food company Sweet Earth Foods revealed.

The spending power of the roughly 80 million US millennials -- referring, generally, to those born 1981 and 1996 -- totals about $600bn across all spending categories (according to Accenture research​) making them a potent economic force. 

"While originally typecast as financially dependent teens, today’s Millennials include young adults in their 20s and 30s. Many have careers, are raising kids and live in their own homes,"​ said Accenture. 

Food priority No. 1 is cost

The average monthly grocery bill and restaurant bill averaged $187 and $139 per month, respectively. Millennials also reported eating out at restaurants 90 times and 41 dinner parties over the course of a year.

“With millennials devoting so much time to food and following special diets, we understand the importance of creating tasty, nutritious and convenient plant-based options,”​ said Kelly Swette, CEO and co-founder of Sweet Earth.

“They’re willing to try new foods so we’ve worked for the last eight years in a kitchen, not a lab, to bring plant-based to the mainstream and make it culinary and globally-inspired.

Finding delicious plant-based food should be easy and affordable."

Sweet Earth products include plant-based vegan versions of pizzas, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast meats, burgers, and a line of seitan products such as curry satay and chipotle strips.

According to the survey, millennial consumers try an average of 46 new foods per year.

When it comes to what they eat, millennials’ top priorities are cost (48%), nutrient density (46%), and no artificial additives (40%) followed by organic food (39%) and plant-based (37%).

Cooking at home vs. eating out

Not all millennials are choosing to eat out. Some are held back from eating out more often because of a lack of time (37%) or because of a lack of money (37% ) while 42% of millennials report eating healthier when they cook for themselves.

When millennials prepare meals at home, they find food inspiration from a variety of sources, with their friends (49%), parents (46%) and cookbooks (44%) in the top three–beating out more modern methods of finding recommendations, such as social media.

However, millennials are using social media for other things food-related activities: 69% have posted photos of their food to social media in the past year, 26% have taken 10 or more photos to get one that’s ‘social media worthy’.

Special diets and tweaks

Over half (57%) of millennials said that they follow a special diet such as plant-based, keto, vegan, or Whole 30.

Reasons for following a special diet varied:

  1. Healthier for my body (67%) 
  2. Working to lose weight (53%)
  3. Concerns about health problems/illnesses (48%)
  4. Better for the environment/more sustainable (44%)
  5. More ethical (37%)

Millennials report making 17 tweaks or changes to their diet per year, with the top changes found to be eating healthier foods (46%), avoiding sugar/carbs (41%), and focusing more on plant-based foods (36%). Alcohol-free weeks or months and cutting down on meat consumption tied at 34% of respondents.

In addition, 74% of those on a specialty diet find it more difficult to eat at restaurants and 59% of respondents feel judgment when ordering and buying foods that subscribe to a special diet.

"We know millennials are smart and health-conscious and we think their changing tastes reflect our mission of sustaining the land and a healthy body, and cultivating a curious mind and palate,”​ added Swette.

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