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Are Millennials Still Always Eating Out?

When it comes to eating habits, conventional wisdom notes that Millennials as a group are more likely to eat out than to cook their own food. There are tons of reasons for this line of thinking: they value their time differently, they work different types of jobs with different hours, and are often looking for the next big thing when it comes to food. But is this line of thinking actually true?

According to the NPD Group, maybe not as true as we had imagined. According to its A Generational Study: The Evolution of Eating, Millennials want more control and involvement in the foods and meals they eat. As such, they are shifting some dinner occasions from away-from-home to in-home. The NPD Group argues that the generational cohort is beginning to understand dinner as an experience and part of the process includes cooking from scratch.

This goes against traditional thinking. Millennials are often classified as unstructured shoppers that are constantly looking for the next big thing. This often requires eating at popular and trendy restaurants. It also requires a lack of brand loyalty; rather than finding a popular chain to rely upon, they relish finding a new experience with every meal. Perhaps this has to do with a generation growing up?

Millennials also added more side dishes to their dinners over the past decade. What’s funny is that Boomers are decreasing their side dishes at the same time. According to David Portalatin, vice president, industry analysis at The NPD Group:

“A counterintuitive shift is taking place when it comes to eating behaviors that defies traditional aging patterns, and the dinner meal is an example of this shift…. Millennials and Boomers answer the ‘what’s for dinner’ question differently. An understanding of the motivations and needs that drive each group’s answer to the dinner question will assist manufacturers and retailers in meeting their needs today and inform the future.”

It will be interesting to see how Millennials continue to evolve as a cohort. Could this be one of the first shifts the demographics endures as it returns to the norms set by its predecessors? You can be sure that we at the Food Institute will be keeping track of the generation and its relationship with food as time goes on.

And don’t forget: All Millennials Hate Being Grouped as Millennials.