Millennials have the most buying power of any generation, so their food purchasing behavior has far-reaching implications for the future of the food industry. A recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reveals just how much Millennials spend on food, what they buy, and how their shopping habits compare to those of older generations.

The findings reveal staggering generational rifts in food spending, food preferences, and even how much time is spent on meal prep. Deep insights into consumer behaviors, especially for consumers in their prime spending years, will be critical for food industry professionals to keep up with trends.


In general, the older the consumer, the more they spend on food at home. There are myriad reasons why Millennials tend to spend less on food at home, including how often they eat at restaurants — about 30% more than previous generations.

So, when Millennials do choose to eat at home, what do they buy? Of all the generations, Millennials allot the smallest share of their food expenditures on grains, white meat, and red meat. On the flip side, they budget more for prepared foods, pasta, and sugar/sweets than the other generations. And as Millennials’ incomes increase, so does their spending on fruits and vegetables. In fact, the numbers suggest that Millennials have more of a taste for fruits and veggies than older generations do.


In a fast-paced world, Millennials rely on the conveniences of life. Food is no exception. This study finds that, of all the generations, Millennials spend the least amount of time on food prep, presentation, and cleanup at about 88 minutes. Gen X’ers spend the most time on food prep at 143 minutes.

When it comes to shopping, Millennials are taking far fewer trips to the grocery store than their predecessors. The report points out that Traditionalists (those born before 1946) are of retirement age — they simply have more leisure time to spend in the store. However, it’s also worth noting how frequently Millennials eat outside the home, a number that rises along with incomes.

Millennials hold a lot of power in today’s economy, so food industry professionals can’t afford to ignore their habits. Although Millennials may be spending less on food at home overall, they are still a health-conscious group that values convenience at mealtime. Given Millennials’ preferences, the door is wide open for the food industry to innovate their products to appeal to what is now the largest generation.


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