The Food and Beverage Revolution: Unlocking Younger Consumers’ Preferences

The food and beverage industry is seeing shifting consumer behaviors, particularly among younger consumers. These consumers—Gen Z and Millennials—differ from older generations in three main ways.

First, they are more informed. For example, younger generations grew up in the information era and had exposé documentaries on the food industry baked into their middle school and high school educations.  They absorbed this information as they were formulating their opinions and habits around food. This exposure to information makes younger generations more conscious consumers, meaning they focus on how their purchasing decisions impact themselves, the environment, and society.

Second, younger consumers are experiential, as you can see in the graph below. They’ve become used to seeing a variety of beautifully presented food on social media and they in turn want their food to deliver experiences. Millennials in particular are more adventurous, have tried more “trendy” foods and beverages, and seek experiences when they dine out. For brands to keep up, they must know where the trade-offs lie and what they can do to garner the attention of these younger consumers.

Third, Gen Zs and Millennials feel especially short on time. This bleeds into how they approach shopping, cooking, and dining. Marketers need to understand how these convenience-focused generations behave differently because of restricted schedules and help alleviate the anxiety around cooking.

To support Collage Group members, we conducted two nationally-representative surveys of 2,880 and 2,877 respondents separately. With your input, we designed a series of questions testing key hypotheses on how Gen Z and Millennial consumers compare to older generations, and one another, when it comes to food and beverage.

Takeaways and action steps implied by our research include:

  • Many Millennials gravitate towards “trendy” health foods: Make sure your brand offers a variety of healthy “trendy” options, but don’t be trendy for the sake of it as Millennials find this off-putting
  • Millennials are shopping at big-box stores more than national grocery chains: Capture Millennial shopper attention by partnering with both big-box stores and national grocery chains when distributing your brand’s products
  • Young consumers care about brand values: Adopt and promote the values of smaller brands in your portfolio when they align to those of younger consumers. Show how your company promotes its values through these acquisitions
  • Millennials and Gen Zs are cooking at home, but find it to be a chore: Provide simple recipes that use your brand and prepped products with few ingredients that will make the process of cooking more enjoyable and less of a burden
  • Gen Z has a distinct preference for tea over coffee: Focus on Gen Z’s preference for tea and specialty coffee drinks to continue to drive this preference into the future, even as they develop more of a taste for coffee

*Respondents were asked if they agreed to three statements, including: “I consider myself a foodie,” “I have a more adventurous palette than most people,” and “I like to eat foods from different cultures.” “Experiential Eaters” agree with all three. “Seekers” agree with any two statements. “Occasional Deviators” agree with just one statement. “Safe Players” agree with none of the statements. Note: agreement is top 2 box.

Is What You Think of Trump’s Fan Base Fake News?

Election results are rolling in as we go to print, but in all likelihood you are reading this in the wake of the historic midterm election results. Our stock in trade is Multicultural, Gen Z and Millennial research, but in this post we take a Total Market view to anticipate the election results, with a focus on white ethnocentrism.

The appeal to that segment could not be more clear. Donald Trump continued to reinforce the threat of immigration right up until the last day of campaigning for the midterms, a message he’s been perpetuating since the very inception of his campaign for president. Despite increasing polarization, it’s undeniable that Trump’s fan base is steadfast in their support of him. Loyal to the “make America great again” slogan, the president’s supporters are typically understood to be older voters who hail from white, rural, small-town America.  As if to confirm this exact scenario, the president has spent most of his time campaigning away from urban cores, strongholds of the Democrats.

Data from our recent America in 2018 research, however contradict prevalent assumption that white people in urban areas (which we defined as counties with populations greater than 50,000 and with 90% or more living in high density urban environments) are less likely to respond Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Yet again, the prevailing assumptions about  Trump’s fan base may not hold water.

In our study we asked, “to what degree are you concerned about the loss of majority status for European Americans?” We asked survey participants to rank their answer on a 5-point scale, where 5 indicated highest concern and categorized respondents as “ethnocentric” if they answer 4 or 5.  Of the 1421 survey respondents identifying as white, 22% were “ethnocentric” using this measure.

We identified four major takeaways:

No surprise: ethnocentricity in Gen Z is uniformly low.

All Gen Z segments report lower ethnocentricity than older generations.

Aging and urbanicity are strongly correlated with ethnocentricity.

We found that ethnocentricism among whites peaks among older Millennials and gen Xers, but declines among Boomers. In addition, we found that higher urbanicity is correlated with higher ethnocentricism among whites.

Older Millennial and Gen X males living in urban areas are the most concerned about losing majority status.

Ethnocentricity among women peaks in Gen X

Recent academic research confirms that exposure to diversity in urban environments can increase ethnocentricity among whites. In this Harvard study, researchers focused on attitudinal changes towards immigration by analyzing the reactions of white commuter rail riders after seeing Mexican immigrants at their train platform. The data shows that initially, people responded negatively to outsiders. While those negative feelings were ultimately reduced during the course of the study, they never completely subsided. This confirms the theory that urbanicity doesn’t necessarily make you more open to a diverse population, even if it means being at the center of a multicultural and vibrant melting pot.

As we go to print we don’t yet know whether the results in key swing districts in urban areas will reveal that white individuals voted in favor of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, or that they voted to break with that appeal to instinct. For marketers, the challenge could not be more clear, that the increase in polarization across the media creates major opportunities to appeal to a diverse consumer base even as it increases the risk of backlash.  In this climate, Collage Group provides the tools marketers need to navigate the Total Market through the turbulence of consumer sentiment and behavior.