C-stores, QSRs Attract Millennial Snackers

CHICAGO -- Millennials have been snacking more often in the past year, particularly at convenience stores, yet also cooking at home more, according to a study conducted by Y-Pulse and The Culinary Visions Panel.

More than 1,000 consumers participated in the study, which sought to better understand the factors that drive snack purchase decisions for consumers in different age groups and life stages.

The study looked at snacking behavior and motivation across nine different away-from-home segments. Its focus was on snacking behavior because younger consumers, in particular, eat more small meals or snacks throughout the day instead of traditional meals. In general, Millennials care less about defining an eating experience as a meal or snack than they do satisfying their need to eat what they want when and where they want it, according to the announcement.

Although the Millennial generation includes consumers who were 19 to 36 years old in 2013, the study examined them in age subgroups: younger Millennials, aged 19 to 25; middle Millennials, aged 26 to 30; and older Millennials, aged 31 to 36.

While younger Millennials are both snacking and cooking at home more often, they also have a "snack throughout the day" lifestyle that doesn't commit to regular meals. C-stores are often their chosen venue for snacks, unless they are students living on campus, in which case they choose the cafeteria more often.

Middle Millennials snack most during the late afternoon and before dinner, and are the group least likely to bring snacks from home. They favor c-stores and quick-service restaurants for snacks.

Older Millennials snack during the mid-morning and late afternoon at about the same rate as they did one year ago. They enjoy cheese, nuts and bakery items more than any other age group, and are the most likely to bring snacks from home.

"As members of this large demographic group have matured, it has become important to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that influence their food decisions away from home," stated Sharon Olson, executive director of Y-Pulse. "Young consumers who are still finishing college and living at home behave differently than those in transition to their own financial independence or those who are heads of their own households with young children."

The study found few gender differences among Millennials when it comes to snacking choices, although men are twice as likely to choose casual-dining or fast-casual restaurants for snacks, and they are more likely to go to workplace cafeterias, supermarket delis and quick-service venues than women. Meanwhile, women make snacks at home almost twice as much as men, and visit drugstores and supermarket bakeries more than men.

Freshness beats out all other criteria when choosing a snack, with 94 percent of Millennials reporting that they consider freshness important or very important. Craving (89 percent), comfort (86 percent) and healthfulness (83 percent) are also important criteria.

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