A Mix of Generational, Life Stage, and Aging Influences Will Inform the Future of Eating in the U.S.

Life Stage Does Affect Eating Behaviors but Generations Approach Life Stages Differently

Chicago, May 10, 2016 — Turns out that not all Millennials, Boomers, Gen Xs or Zs are created equal when it comes to eating behaviors, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company.  Age, ethnicity, life stage, and values also influence current and future eating behaviors, based on a recently released NPD study that leverages 30 years of actual consumption data to quantitatively determine what is myth and reality about eating patterns among the generations. 

There are eating behaviors and categories where all generations are moving in the same direction showing cross-generational behavior shifts, finds NPD’s A Generational Study:  The Evolution of Eating.  For example, since 1984 all generations have shown a preference for food and beverage items that are convenient and healthy snacks that double as mini-meals, and have moved away from some other foods, like red meat, sugar, and canned foods. Then there are shifts in eating patterns that defy traditional aging patterns and have generations going in different directions.  Millennials and Boomers are often going in different directions.  For example, Boomers are all about convenience and using restaurants more than Millennials.

Another question addressed by the study is which eating behaviors are generationally influenced and which are based on life stage. For example, will Millennials change their eating habits when kids enter the household and behave like previous generations? Based on the study’s findings, when kids enter the household, Millennial parents eat differently. They do eat more kid-friendly foods. The watch out is that they aren’t eating these foods at the same rate of prior generations. The other thing Millennial-aged parents are doing differently is increasing their consumption of healthier foods compared to previous generations.

“It is undeniable that people of different ages have different eating patterns,” says David Portalatin, vice president, food industry analyst at NPD Group. “The more important questions we must answer are whether these differences are the results of current life stage and circumstance, or whether an emerging set of new values will have the power to transcend life stage or circumstance.  This analysis helps identify the unpredictable behaviors that will be the white space opportunities in the future.”

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Kim McLynn


The NPD Group, Inc.
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