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Should You Ask a Millennial to Cook?








Laurie Demeritt, CEO and President, The Hartman Group, Inc.

Interest in understanding Millennials has yet to wane. It is a demographic group that has been the darling and devil of marketers. How to influence these masters of customization and self-expression remains a mystery to many. Compared to older generations like Gen X and Baby Boomers, are Millennials (who we define as 16 to 30 years old) really that much different when it comes to attitudes about foods, beverages, and cooking?

A growing number of Millennials are adults with significant buying clout (comScore data estimates peg it at $170 billion annually). With this sort of purchasing power, it is easy to grasp why so many food companies and retailers are eager to grab their sizable share of the prize. So, what sort of foods do Millennials crave and how do they satisfy their hunger? Knowing the answers to these questions will help food marketers gather Millennials into the fold of loyal, or at least frequently returning, consumers.

Although our research shows Millennials are not drastically different from their predecessors, Gen X and Boomers, we have identified distinct variations in their food preferences and behaviors.

Millenials are more spontaneous and adventurous than previous generations in their interactions with food. They enjoy eating with others (we call it “commensality-style dining”), whether cooking at home or going to happy hour with friends, and report they feel less comfortable eating a meal alone (45% vs. 54% of older consumers). As the following chart illustrates, Millennials believe they consume healthier, more expensive, more natural/organic, less-processed and better-tasting foods and brands than their parents.

harman chart 1Source: The Culture of Millennials 2011 report, The Hartman Group, Inc.

They also are more likely than previous generations to:

  • Be gender neutral when it comes to the role of cooking (61% of females and 60% of males enjoy cooking)
  • Consider food an adventure and seek out different, ethnic, and artisan foods (40% like to try new kinds of ethnic cuisines and “anything new and different,” compared to 34% and 32% respectively of Gen X/Boomers combined)
  • Make spur-of-the moment food decisions and have less well-stocked pantries
  • Blend sauces and infuse flavors to customize new salad dressings and marinades
  • Boost energy with energy drinks (29% in the previous month compared to 15% of older adults)
  • Trend towards more meatless eating, with 6% identifying as faithful vegetarians, compared to 5% of Gen X/Boomers combined. And 12% report often going vegetarian, compared with 10% of Gen X and 5% of Boomers
  • Purchase frozen and pre-packaged foods they consider healthy, adding seasonings and fresh ingredients
  • Read product labels for calories and sugar amount but not overall nutritional value—they often make decisions based on gut feelings about the healthiness of the product
  • Identify less with brands, unless a brand enhances their own image (e.g., local groceries, electronics, personal care products)

 Millennials Attitudes Toward Cooking

Reports on the demise of home cooking may be exaggerated. Compared to older age groups, Millennials actually enjoy cooking and have a keen interest in honing their culinary skills further. Millennials have a basic repertoire of dishes they’re able to cook without a recipe — but are interested in expanding their range of dishes. For many Millennials, the act of cooking is more performative; they enjoy cooking especially when having people over or for a dinner party.

hartman chart 2

Food companies and retailers should note that Millennials are largely gender-neutral when it comes to cooking, though women express more interest than men in expanding their repertoire. Cooking is also more likely to be a shared activity for Millennials than for older consumers, with fresh ingredients dominating main approaches to household meal preparation.

About Laurie Demeritt

ceo hartmanAs CEO and President, Laurie Demeritt provides strategic and operational leadership for The Hartman Group’s research and consulting teams. Laurie and The Hartman Group analysts are recognized for their unique ability to blend primary qualitative, quantitative, and trends research to help clients develop successful marketing strategies by understanding the subtle complexities of how consumers live, shop, and use products and how to apply that understanding in ways that lead to purchase. She can be reached at:

 About The Hartman Group

The Hartman Group is the principal provider of global research on consumer culture, behaviors, and demand and a leading advisor on market strategy to the world’s best-known brands. Through a unique suite of integrated custom, primary research capabilities, market analytics, and business strategy services, The Hartman Group uncovers opportunity spaces and avenues for growth for clients across the consumer-driven marketplace. Hartman Group is internationally recognized for breakthrough perspectives on emerging and evolving consumer behaviors in health and wellness, sustainability, and food culture. Since its foundation in 1989, The Hartman Group helps clients apply the knowledge of the “why behind the buy” to brand development, innovation, categories, retail, marketing, and more.

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