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Millennials and Gen Z Love Baked Goods, Hate Food Waste, Study Shows

American Bakers Association unveils its 'most in-depth study' on young consumers
Photograph: Shutterstock

Pack sizes and nutrition have emerged as chief concerns for younger consumers of baked goods, a new survey showed.

The study, released this week by the American Bakers Association (ABA), Washington, D.C., reveals much about millennial's and Generation Z's perceptions toward commercially baked goods, as well as key trends for consumer packaged goods companies to consider. The report takes a detailed look at key baking industry verticals that include bread, sweet baked goods, rolls and buns, crackers and baked bars, as well as more ethnic favorites such as tortillas, bagels and flatbreads.

“Millennials are now the trend drivers in the baked goods category. This is true from grocery stores to foodservice,” said Jason Dorsey, president of the Center for Generational Kinetics and author of the ABA report. "Accurately uncovering, understanding and explaining millennials at this critical time in their consumer evolution will help to drive the growth of the baked goods category and bust through myths about the generation. The study not only exposed surprising insights but also revealed that baked goods have a promising future with millennials as their spending and influence is poised to only increase.” 

According to the Pew Research Center, generations are not defined precisely by birth year. However, millennials are made up by the cohort of Americans that were born in the later 1990s and grew up after the start of the new millennium (thus, the term "millennial"). Generation Z, which is considered to be much more diverse, is a cohort made up of Americans born largely after the year 2000 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

“Understanding these consumers is of paramount interest to all business sectors, not just bakery,” said Robb MacKie, president and CEO of ABA.

Food waste and nutrition drive purchases

While millennials and Generation Z enjoy and buy baked goods as much as any consumer, they tend to buy and eat less than they did in the previous year, the study found. When it comes to bread, in particular, food waste is a common concern that may inhibit purchases. Nearly three-quarters of consumers cite waste as a deterrent to purchases, while the study found that more than 1 in 5 consumers often or always skip buying bread at the store if they have recently thrown it away.
 
“The study shows some potential answers for the baking industry,” MacKie said. “For example, more than half of those surveyed would buy more baked items if they came in smaller portions. This report details even more strategies for businesses to consider when looking to develop products for these consumers.”

Across all product categories, Gen Z and millennials in the study say the most important nutritional descriptors for baked goods are “whole grains,” “freshness” and “natural ingredients.”  Nearly half (48%) said they would also be convinced to try products whose ingredients were "responsibly sourced."

Additionally, millennials and Gen Z consumers responded to the ABA's study that they want to see more baked goods in grocery store meal kits, but also that the vast majority still prefer to shop for baked goods at a traditional grocery store. 
 
“An interesting report finding shows that tasting is believing,” MacKie said. “One-third of these consumers would buy more baked goods if they could taste them first.”

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