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Apr 12, 2016

Same Meal, Different Motivations

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Twice this year I’ve had the fortune of a business trip near where my parents live, thus saving me the personal expense of the visit! Since I study food trends, however, I guess I’m never really away from work since eating is something we all do at least a few times a day. I always find it interesting to compare my eating habits with my parents to see if we’re like most other Americans, particularly when it comes to generational differences.

On both these trips I stayed at their house and made my breakfast each morning so as not to burden them – anything to win the title of favorite child. One day I made eggs with spinach and feta cheese, on another day I had Greek yogurt, and when I was pressed for time I had a bar. To me it’s nice to change things up a little to ensure I don’t get bored and fall hopelessly into a rut.

My father joined in on the eggs one day, but on the others he stuck to his fruit while my mother had some toast with cottage cheese. I always thought variety was the spice of life but it seems that message didn’t get to my folks until I probed a little further to understand the motivations behind their morning meal decisions.

Dad’s been doing a great job of getting into shape to the point where he’s putting me to shame. His breakfasts are motivated by sticking to what he knows will help him maintain his healthy lifestyle. Mom’s motivations are a little different in that she’s looking for foods that won’t upset her stomach or give her heartburn. Overall my parents stick to their routines in the morning because they know the foods they choose are helping them achieve their health goals while avoiding unwanted consequences.

NPD’s continual tracking of eating patterns reveals a similar dynamic between Baby Boomers and Millennials. For the record, I’m a Gen Xer, but I appear to emulate their want for variety in the morning as I’m not as concerned the foods I eat will negatively impact me. Like Boomers, I like to start my day right, but I’m willing to reach for different items in my kitchen as I start my day. When we look at Boomers’, however, they stress motivations that center around favorites and routine because they have more reasons to narrow the available options.

Universally consumers’ breakfasts are motivated by a certain degree of healthfulness, but it’s important for marketers to dig deeper into the subtle nuances to most effectively communicate how your products satisfy all the motivations in play.

Now if only business trips near my family occurred regularly I could easily settle into that routine!



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