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Millennials & Gen Z’s Favorite Thanksgiving Foods? Depends on Where They Live

It might be called Turkey Day, but the Thanksgiving foods Millennials & Gen Z crave the most aren’t the same across the U.S. We asked 1000 13-35-year-olds their favorite Thanksgiving foods and found some interesting differences across demographics…

Put down the candy and pick up the carving knife. It’s the day after Halloween, so, ready or not, consumers are switching from planning their costumes to planning their Thanksgiving (or Friendsgiving) plates—and brands are switching on their best Thanksgiving marketing.

We already asked Gen Z and Millennials all about their Thanksgiving plans to prep brands on what young consumers want to buy, do, and spend—and how they might be shaking up traditions—as they prep the holiday. Our Thanksgiving survey and Topline Report found that over four in ten 13-35-year-olds plan to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, and about a third of Millennials also say they will be hosting friends/family for the day. The generation is increasingly becoming the main shoppers for Turkey Day as they take over hosting duties in coming years—and food is majorly important to them. Over three in five 13-35-year-olds told us that cooking would be a part of their Thanksgiving Day, and two in five said that they would be baking. In fact, half of young consumers tell us that cooking is their favorite part of the holiday, and over half say they spend time looking for new recipes to use. Their plate obsession creates plenty of opportunities for brands, so to get a little more info on what foods Millennials and Gen Z are most excited about, we asked them to tell us their favorite Thanksgiving food.* But when we combed through their responses, we found some interesting differences between young consumers across the U.S. But before we delve into those, we’ll present Millennials and Gen Z’s top favorite Thanksgiving foods overall:

*This was an open-end response question to allow us to capture the full range of Thanksgiving foods that Gen Z and Millennial consumers say are their favorites—without our preconceived ideas shaping their responses. As with any qualitative question, the responses include those that are top of mind and those that are most popular. The lists are ordered according to number of responses received, and alphabetically when ties occurred.

What’s Their Favorite Thanksgiving Food?

13-35-year-olds overall

      1. Turkey
      2. Potatoes
      3. Stuffing / Dressing
      4. Pies
      5. Casserole
      6. Cranberries
      7. Mac and Cheese
      8. Yams / Sweet Potatoes
      9. Everything
      10. Breads
      11. Ham
      12. Gravy
      13. Dessert
      14. Chicken
      15. Vegetables
      16. Corn
      17. Appetizers
      18. Food from my cultural heritage

Not too big a surprise at what hit the top of the list here. It’s not called Turkey Day for nothing, and when looking at 13-35-year-olds’ responses overall the traditional protein came out on the top of the list of favorite foods.

But there’s more than one way to slice the holiday data pie, and when we looked at the top favorite foods of young consumers according to the region they live in, turkey did not reign supreme over the holiday table for all:

While Millennials and Gen Z in the South and West were most likely to name turkey as their favorite Thanksgiving food, young consumers in the Northeast were more likely to say stuffing/dressing is their favorite, and those in the Midwest were more likely to name potatoes. (Fitting with so many preconceived notions about Midwestern diet.) A few other telling regional differences popped up as well: young consumers from each area had one unique Thanksgiving dish that ranked in their top five. Northeastern young consumers were more likely to say cranberries were a favorite, those in the South to say mac & cheese, those in the Midwest to say casserole, and those in the West, interestingly enough, were more likely to name gravy as a favorite dish.


To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.