Millennials Incorporating More Specialty Foods into Snacks, Meals

As Millennial's wield ever-more spending power, it's vital for retailers to keep tabs on the changing needs and behaviors of this key consumer group.

According to an online survey conducted by the Specialty Food Association (SFA), younger shoppers are moving toward specialty foods for snacks and on-the-go meals, much more so than Baby Boomers and older consumers.

"We’ve become a nation of snackers, and that holds true for consumers who enjoy specialty food," Louise Kramer, a spokesperson for the SFA, told Progressive Grocer.

"Millennials are looking for convenient products they can eat on the go, and are interested in trying new flavors and cuisines," Kramer added. "With the boomer + population growing at a rapid clip, retailers might want to engage this age group more by focusing on product they favor, such as pantry items for home cooking."

Additionally, those who purchase specialty foods regularly said they're spending one in four of their food dollars on such foods -- up from one in five in 2013 -- with chocolate, olive oil and cheese purchased most often.

Among the SFA survey highlights:

  • 18- to 24-year-olds were the most likely consumers of chocolate, salty snacks, frozen desserts and ready-to-eat food and beverages
  • 59 percent of U.S. adults purchased specialty food products in the last six months
  • 42 percent of adults surveyed said that they try new foods in order to eat healthier
  • 71 percent of specialty food consumers support companies that practice sustainability
  • Core specialty food consumers are ages 18 – 44 and affluent, earning more than $75,000 annually.
  • Women are more likely than men to purchase specialty food products

"Overall, specialty food consumers have these foods and beverages on hand for regular usage, whether as an everyday snack or meal or as a treat," said Denise Purcell, senior director, content development for the SFA. "This daily engagement bodes well for the market as a whole."

The survey defined specialty foods as those of premium quality such as high-end chocolate, coffee or cooking oil; those made by small or local manufacturers; have exotic ethnic flavors; have the very best ingredients available; or are foods that are unique.