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Millennials Purchase More Prepared Foods, Sweets Than Other Generations

The Lempert Report: USDA study reveals some unexpected eating habits among generation

Just when we were getting tired of hearing about how millennials are the most passionate and particular about food, a new report from the USDA finds that this generation—born between 1981 and the mid-2000s—on average devote less of their food budgets to grocery store (or food-at-home) purchases, and make fewer trips to the grocery store than the other generations examined. Millennials are demanding healthier and fresher food—including fruits and vegetables—when making food-at-home purchases, and they place a higher preference on convenience than other generations. 

The differences in food-at-home spending between the generations suggest that the younger generations have a stronger preference for eating out at restaurants, fast-food places and other away-from-home venues. Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, supports this finding: Survey respondents under the age of 25 allocate the highest proportion of their food budgets (6%) to eating out, versus the 4.8% by respondents between the ages of 55 and 64.  

USDA’s Economic Research Service classified IRI purchase data into three beverage categories and 19 food categories, with the latter comprising 13 fresh or minimally processed categories and six processed categories. The researchers defined prepared foods as requiring no preparation after purchase—the food is ready to eat or ready to heat and then eat. This includes foods such as canned soup, frozen pizza and items from the deli section, such as sandwiches, pasta salads and rotisserie chicken. 

Millennial shoppers generally purchase a larger share of prepared foods, pasta, and sugar and candies than the other generations. On average, millennials devoted 13.6% of their at-home food expenditures to these three categories, compared with 12.4% by Gen Xers, 11.5% by baby boomers, and 11.2% by traditionalists. Millennial households also devote the smallest share of their at-home food expenditures to grains, poultry and red meat.

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